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Debating UK approval of gene editing in human embryos




French Fabien Danjan of CNRS (French Reseach Institut Center) introduces embryonic stem cells to set a genetically modified line.
French Fabien Danjan of CNRS (French Reseach Institut Center) introduces embryonic stem cells to set a genetically modified line.
ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images

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LONDON (AP) - In a landmark decision that some ethicists warned is a step down the path toward "designer babies," Britain gave scientists approval Monday to conduct experiments in which they will try to edit the genes in human embryos.

The scientists won't be creating babies - the modified embryos will be destroyed after seven days. Instead, they said, the goal is to better understand human development and thereby improve fertility treatments and prevent miscarriages.

The decision by Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority marks the first time a country's national regulator has approved the technique. Permission isn't explicitly required in many other countries, including the U.S. and China.

The U.S. does not allow the use of federal funds for embryo modification, but there is no outright ban on gene editing.Gene editing involves deleting, repairing or replacing DNA inside living cells in a sort of biological cut-and-paste technique that scientists say could one day lead to treatments for conditions like HIV or inherited disorders such as muscular dystrophy and sickle cell disease.

A team led by Kathy Niakan, an embryo and stem cell specialist at London's new Francis Crick Institute, received the OK to use gene editing to analyze the first week of an embryo's growth.

Read the full article here.

Guests:

Ronald Bailey, Science Correspondent for “Reason” magazine and Reason.com; Author of “The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century

Marcy Darnovsky, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a nonprofit organization working to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of human genetic, reproductive, and biomedical technologies