The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has just authorised scientists at the Francis Crick Institute in London to genetically modify human embryos using the CRISPR Cas9 technique. Scientists submitted their request in September (see Will Great Britain authorise the genetic handling of embryos?), and the HFEA discussed this in mid-January (see Heading towards the creation of genetically modified human embryos?).
This decision is the first official authorisation since the announcement by Chinese scientists in April (see Genetic handling of embryos: a worrying transgression). Doctor Kathy Niakan’s team will start its “controversial experiments” in March. The team will conduct research on 30 embryos from the AMP clinic and intends to deactivate the genes to “see if this hampers development” in an attempt to then identify the “best embryos” to be implanted following IVF. Genetically modified embryos “cannot be implanted” with a view to pregnancy.
The HFEA authorisation includes an ethical evaluation of studies. The green light from the HFEA has been strongly criticised since it “paves the way for designer babies” and “eugenics”.
The Telegraph (01/02/2016)