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Gene-Editing in Human Embryos Slowly Escapes Ethical Controversies

First Posted: Apr 20, 2016 04:30 AM EDT
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A stem cell biologist at the Karolinska Institute is making a huge leap in preparing experiments that involve editing genes in human embryos. This type of experiment has started an international craze last year when a team of Chinese researchers declared they have made an experiment of this kind for the first time.

Frederik Lanner, the one responsible for the experiment, is not expecting that his work will cause people to react the same way they did last year. After a year of discussion about the ethical side of researches involving embryo-editing and quite possibly the passage of time, he believes that it has toned down the controversial angle of the issue.

Scientific American reported that despite having people understand these kind of works, there are still those who still have ethical anxieties over other reproductive-biology experiments. "At least in the scientific community, I sense more support for basic-research applications," says Lanner, who gained approval for his experiments last June.

Lanner was led to pursue the experiment when an experiment of the same nature was published this month making it only the second experiment to edit human embryos. The team was led by Yong Fan from Guangzhou Medical University in China which used the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 to start a mutation that will make humans resistant to HIV infection.

A bioethicist at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom explained that she doesn't think there is anything wrong with these experiments. She believes that the kind of work these scientists are doing isn't starting to what is still ethically controversial. "It's not seeking to create genetically modified human beings," she continued. The ethics committee of the university-affiliated hospital which gave Fan's work a go explained that two other embryo-editing projects doesn't seem ethically wrong because it will lead to improvements that could help prevent diseases., nature.com reports.

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