Chinese fertility doctors have tried to make HIV-proof human embryos, but the experiments ended in a bust. The new report is the second time researchers in China revealed that they had a go at making genetically modified human embryos.
The controversial experiments are, in effect, feasibility studies of whether it’s possible to make super-people engineered to avoid genetic disorders or resist disease.
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Ref: Introducing precise genetic modifications into human 3PN embryos by CRISPR/Cas-mediated genome editing. Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics (April 2016) | DOI: 10.1007/s10815-016-0710-8
Purpose - As a powerful technology for genome engineering, the CRISPR/Cas system has been successfully applied to modify the genomes of various species. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the technology and establish principles for the introduction of precise genetic modifications in early human embryos.
Methods - 3PN zygotes were injected with Cas9 messenger RNA (mRNA) (100 ng/μl) and guide RNA (gRNA) (50 ng/μl). For oligo-injections, donor oligo-1 (99 bp) or oligo-2 (99 bp) (100 ng/μl) or dsDonor (1 kb) was mixed with Cas9 mRNA (100 ng/μl) and gRNA (50 ng/μl) and injected into the embryos.
Results - By co-injecting Cas9 mRNA, gRNAs, and donor DNA, we successfully introduced the naturally occurring CCR5Δ32 allele into early human 3PN embryos. In the embryos containing the engineered CCR5Δ32 allele, however, the other alleles at the same locus could not be fully controlled because they either remained wild type or contained indel mutations.
Conclusions - This work has implications for the development of therapeutic treatments of genetic disorders, and it demonstrates that significant technical issues remain to be addressed. We advocate preventing any application of genome editing on the human germline until after a rigorous and thorough evaluation and discussion are undertaken by the global research and ethics communities.