Genome editing techniques on human embryos is still forbidden in many countries. Editing the genomes of human embryos for a therapeutic use is illegal in Britain, but research work is possible under license from the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Researchers from the Francis Crick Institute have applied to Britain's regulators to use new 'genome editing' techniques on human embryos.
Once the HFEA approves this application, the research project will focus on understanding the genes that human embryos need to develop successfully. Any donated embryos will be used for research purposes only. The knowledge acquired from the research may improve embryo development after in vitro fertilization (IVF) and might provide better clinical treatments for infertility.
Lead author Kathy Niakan said, "We also propose to use new methods based on CRIPSR/Cas9, which allows very specific alterations to be made to the genome, By applying more precise and efficient methods in our research we hope to require fewer embryos and be more successful than the other methods currently used."
Genome editing has been used in research for several years but recent advances and the introduction of the CRISPR-Cas9 (Easy Genome Engineering) system means that work can be done in a more precise way than before. The stage of embryo development that the scientists plan to study also has tremendous potential for stem cell research, which will have benefits and advances in many different fields of medicine.