This research was indeed a pioneer in the number of embryos used in the experiment, as well as having demonstrated that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause hereditary diseases. The results have not yet been published in a scientific journal.
All the technology that allows the gene change in a human embryo has now been used for the first time in the United States, according to the Oregon University of Health and Science (OHSU) in Portland, which conducted the research. OHSU’s work will have pioneered both the number of embryos used in the experiment and demonstrated that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause hereditary diseases, according to the MIT Technology Review.
It is known that none of the embryos used in the experiments developed for more than a few days, the study reveals. Some countries have signed a convention banning the use of this genetic-editing technique on embryos because there are concerns about a possible use to create so-called “made-to-measure” babies.
According to OHSU spokesman Eric Robinson, the results of the peer-reviewed study (other scientists who did not participate in this research) are expected to be published shortly in a scientific journal. This research was led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, who is also responsible for the Center for Embryonic Cells and Gene Therapy at OHSU, and involves a technology known as CRISPR, which has opened new frontiers in genetic medicine in light of its ability to modify genes quickly and efficiently.
CRISPR functions as a type of molecular scissors that selectively cut off undesired parts of the genome and in turn replace them with new pieces of DNA. Scientists in China have already published similar studies with varying results.
In December 2015, both scientists and experts gathered at an international convention hosted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington said that it would be “irresponsible” to use gene-editing technology in human embryos for therapeutic purposes, for example, correcting genetic diseases until safety and efficacy problems were resolved.
However, earlier this year the NAS and the National Academy of Medicine considered that scientific advances made the editing of genes into human reproductive cells “a realistic possibility that merits serious consideration”.