Scientists in the US have successfully edited the DNA of a human embryo using the gene-editing tool, CRISPR. This marks the first time the western world has edited human DNA and fucking hell, the future is closing in fast, folks.
While we’re still ages away from this kind of editing eventuating in an actual baby, it certainly brings us much closer to preventing them being born with incurable diseases and disabilities.
Conducted by the Oregon Health and Science University, the research involved editing a whole bunch of viable embryos to correct a genetic mutation that causes a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Best known for killing young athletes, the condition often leads to sudden death.
The embryos were developed for a few days and were not implanted, meaning they can’t develop into babies. Using CRISPR-Cas9, the mutated sequence was cut from the male MYBPC3 gene (the one responsible for the heart thing), after which it copied the healthy sequence from the female gene.
Chinese scientists have used CRISPR to edit human embryos before, but given the USA’s strict stance on this kind of research, this is a huge milestone for the western world. The Chinese research also had what they call mosaicism, meaning the desired DNA was only picked up by some cells, not all. The latest research managed to avoid this.
While it’s no doubt a huge breakthrough for humanity, there are still some ethical mindfucks surrounding the procedure and its use moving forward. Primarily, folks are concerned that gene-editing will result in a creepy world where parents will be able to customise their children’s specific traits to make “designer babies”.
On a slightly more terrifying level, there are also fears that small mistakes during editing could lead to permanent problems in the human gene pool. Yikes.
As I mentioned, we’re still a long way from this kind application taking place, and even this successful procedure isn’t perfect. Of the 58 embryos that were edited, 42 of them had 2 mutation-free copies of the gene in every cell.
More Stuff From PEDESTRIAN.TV