Britain authorises scientist to modify human embryos
| February 2nd 2016
A scientist in Britain has been given the green light to edit the genes of human embryos for research.
This comes less than a year after Chinese scientists caused an international furore by saying they had genetically modified human embryos.
Kathy Niakan, a stem cell scientist from London’s Francis Crick Institute, was granted a licence to carry out similar experiments.
Dr Niakan will be using a technique that some say could eventually be used to create “designer babies”.
“The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has approved a research application from the Francis Crick Institute to use new ‘gene editing’ techniques on human embryos,” Niakan’s lab said yesterday.
It said the work carried out “will be for research purposes and will look at the first seven days of a fertilised egg’s development, from a single cell to around 250 cells”.
Niakan plans to carry out her experiments using CRISPR-Cas9, a technology that is already the subject of fierce international debate because of fears that it could be used to create babies to order.
CRISPR can enable scientists to find and modify or replace genetic defects, and many of them have described it as “game-changing”.
David King, director of the UK campaign group Human Genetics Alert, called Niakan’s plans “the first step on a path ... toward the legalisation of GM babies”.
Niakan said she has no intention of genetically altering embryos for use in human reproduction, but wants to deepen scientific understanding of how a healthy human embryo develops, something that could, in the long term, help to improve infertility treatments.
At a briefing for reporters in London last month, she said the first gene she planned to target was one called Oct4, which she believes may have a crucial role in the earliest stages of human fetal development.
Bruce Whitelaw, a professor of animal biotechnology at Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute on Scotland, said the HFEA’s decision had been reached “after robust assessment”. “This project, by increasing our understanding of how the early human embryo develops and grows, will add to the basic scientific knowledge needed for devising strategies to assist infertile couples and reduce the anguish of miscarriage,” he said.
Cost of convenience in higher educationThe Commission of University Education (CUE) threatened to close several campuses before the Education Cabinet Secretary intervened and extended the grace period by a year.
Why Kenyan boxers are winning medals once againThe BFK led by President Anthony ‘Jamal’ Ombok was elected into the office in 2019 and has since...
Locals want livestock allowed to graze in ADC farm linked to Ruto
- Raila’s grand march to State House begins
- Roads closed for Nairobi Expressway construction reopen from September 30
- Puzzle of dairy cows killed for udders and reproductive parts
- You have no right to complain about high fuel prices, Speaker tells MPs
- Willie Kimani murder: Four police officers have case to answer
By Sara Okuoro