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Human Embryos Were Modified in the U.S. For the First Time Ever

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A team in Portland, Oregon just carried out the first attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States, according to MIT Technology Review as reported by Technology Review.

Shoukhrat Mitalipov led the research, which involved “changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR.” Until this experiment, research involving editing human embryos has only been published by scientists in China.

What makes Mitalipov’s research so compelling is the fact that his data has proven it could be possible to change defective genes that cause inherited diseases–which could be life-changing for parents conceiving children who are carriers of genetic diseases.

Of course, it’s important to note that “none of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days—and there was never any intention of implanting them into a womb.” This, naturally, means that the embryos may not actually come to term–and it could be a long time before that to be possible.

Technology Review also explained how this process,“germline engineering” would affect future generations, as it “would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells—the egg and sperm.” This type of science raises controversial questions, in that it presents the idea of “designer babies,” and what kinds of lives are deemed valuable and not valuable. The ethical considerations here, obviously present the proverbial minefield.

The magazine went on to say how the “U.S. intelligence community last year called CRISPR a potential ‘weapon of mass destruction.’” The actual overall results of the research are currently pending publication.

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