May 14, 2015 – Human Gene
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Anchor lead: Modifying human embryos is reported from a group in China, Elizabeth Tracey reports
Genetically modified human embryos have been described by a research group in China, and the world is in an uproar. Mike Klag, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, describes the research on use of laboratory techniques to remove harmful genes.
Klag: They used it to snip out the beta thalassemia gene. This works very well in bacteria and other systems but what they found in fact was it didn't work well at all. There were lots of times when it had quote off target unquote effects and it had effects throughout the genome. Basically the conclusion is it's not ready for prime time, this system doesn't work in human embryos. People around the world are calling for a moratorium on this kind of research so we can figure out the ethical issues and whether there's ever a case in which you would want to do it. :29
Klag says this research was done on embryos known to have genetic defects that would have been destroyed anyway, but questions the ethics of doing such work at all. At Johns Hopkins, I'm Elizabeth Tracey.