Researchers have applied for permission to edit genes of human embryos

A team of British researchers has applied for the permission for altering DNA of human embryos for gather more information on factors leading to miscarriages. This act of the researchers has made the already existing debate over the appropriateness of such testing even fiercer.

A few months back a research team in China became the world’s first to edit human embryos. However, this is the first time a British research team is seeking permission for using gene editing technique for this purpose. Currently, use of gene editing technique for purposes other than research is illegal in Great Britain. Here, it must be mentioned that the research team submitting the above-mentioned application is representing the Francis Crick Institute.

Researchers submitting this application believe that application of the technique will help them in better understanding the genes playing key roles in the initial stages of fertilization and then finding out why some women have miscarriages.

The tests will be conducted on embryos donated by couples who have extra after undergoing IVF treatment. Once the research will be over, the embryos will be destroyed. The country’s law doesn’t allow the researchers to study the embryos for more than two weeks.

While there are some who don’t have any problem with such studies, there are others including some big names from the medical world who feels that right now there are too many ethical and unresolved legal issues related to gene editing. People belonging to the second group want research on human embryos to be halted until all those issues get resolved.

Even supporters of such studies are agreeing that the technique is absolutely new, as a result of which it cannot be said how safe it is, particularly to the potential future generations.

Alliance for Regenerative Medicine’s executive director Michael Werner said that his organization feels that carrying out studies of this type on human embryos is still highly premature. He believes that a voluntary global moratorium on gene editing of human embryos is the need of the hour for providing the scientific community with the opportunity of coming together for having a healthy policy and legal discussion on ethics, safety and science this study represents.