Scientists are using a controversial gene-editing device that unknowingly created more than a dozen mutated human embryos, according to a recent study.
In an attempt to repair a gene that causes blindness, researchers using a CRISPR DNA cutter unintentionally removed entire chromosomes, or large parts of them, according to a study published Thursday in the journal. Cell lice.
For the study, researchers at an undisclosed laboratory collected sperm from a man with genetic blindness to create 40 embryos.
They then used a CRISPR-Cas9 tool – which functions like a microscopic scalpel – to remove the genetic mutation they wanted to fix in 37 embryos. The remaining three act as the control.
But about half of embryos lose all of their chromosomes, or a large number of them, on the gene where the blind mutation is located, according to the study.
Removed or damaged chromosomes can lead to genetic abnormalities that can be passed on to the next generation.
“This is a very unfavorable result,”; study author Dieter Egli, of Columbia University, told the Wall Street Journal.
The findings also suggest that “the human embryo appears to be unique in its poor DNA repair capacity,” said Egli, who added that it is “out of the debate” about the use of CRISPR during pregnancy.
For years, scientists have debated whether CRISPR is safe and effective enough for use on human embryos that will develop into babies.
Critics point to studies suggesting the technology can cause cancer, while others argue that it’s not accurate enough.
Other skeptics question the ethics of allowing scientists to “play God.”
Last month, a group funded by the US National Academy of Medicine released a report saying the technology was not ready for use on embryos as scientists didn’t yet know how to use it without giving it away. out dangerous DNA changes.