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ALTERING EMBRYOS: China becoming 'Wild West' in genetic research

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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/24/2015 (4 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

Chastened Chinese medical officials say embryos in recent experiment could not have become babies

Critics warn that China is swiftly becoming the "Wild West" of genetic research. Researchers at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou have confirmed they had engineered embryos to modify the gene responsible for the fatal blood disorder thalassaemia. The team responsible tried to deny accusations of eugenics by claiming the embryos were "non-viable" and could never have become babies. 

Used in adult cells and animal models, the technique had previously never been used in connection with human embryos.

Used in adult cells and animal models, the technique had previously never been used in connection with human embryos.

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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
4/24/2015 (4 years ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Eugenices, China, human embryos, gene splicing


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Medical officials worldwide were not mollified. Many say the procedure was the first step towards "designer children" and called for a worldwide ban on the practice.

China has been told to "rein in" the use of edited DNA of human embryos, a practice banned in Europe.

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The work was reported in the journal Protein and Cell after the prestigious science journals Nature and Science refused to publish the study on ethical grounds.

"This news emphasizes the need for an immediate global ban on the creation of GM designer babies," Human Genetics Alert Director, Dr David King says.

"It is critical that we avoid a eugenic future in which the rich can buy themselves a baby with built-in genetic advantages.

"It is entirely unnecessary since there are already many ethical ways to avoid thalassaemia. This research is a classic example of scientific careerism - assuring one's place in the history books even though the research is unnecessary and unethical."

The Chinese team used a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9, which was discovered by scientists at MIT.

The procedure capitalizes on the fact that bacteria attack viruses by snipping away part of their genetic code, effectively dismembering the virus.

The CRISPR technique uses a bacterially derived protein to cut-away a particular gene, which is then replaced or repaired by another molecule introduced at the same time.

Used in adult cells and animal models, the technique had previously never been used in connection with human embryos.

While advocates say the procedure could eradicate inherited diseases, others are concerned that it crosses an ethical line, allowing children to be genetically engineered. In addition, because the genetic changes are happening to embryos the changes will be passed down to future generations.

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