genetic omni determinism - U.K. researcher applies for permission to edit embryo genomes
Science | A researcher in London has applied to the United Kingdom’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for a license to edit the genes of human embryos. Several techniques developed in recent years allow researchers to easily and accurately add, delete, or modify genes in cells. This has stirred debate about using genome editing in ways that would pass the changes on to future generations. The application filed with HFEA would involve only embryos in the lab, however, not any intended to lead to a birth. Many scientists say such lab experiments are crucial to understanding more about early human development, which could lead to new approaches to help infertile couples.
The applicant, Kathy Niakan, a developmental biologist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, investigates the genes that are active at the earliest stages of human development, before it implants in the womb. Work with embryonic stem cells from mice and humans has suggested that some of the key genes active in this preimplantation period are different in humans and in mice. Niakan hopes to use genome editing to tweak some of the key genes thought to be involved and study the effects they have on human development.