18/06/2016

UK gene editing: taking place soon!

The following information is very disturbing! Is this really going to happen!

A British ethics committee has greenlighted the use of human embryos for genetic research.

Dr Kathy Niakan of London’s Francis Crick Institute was given permission by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority earlier this year to edit single genes, despite international criticism. Christian Concern’s Chief Executive, Andrea Williams, said at the time that the move had crossed a "dangerous ethical line".

The Cambridge Central Research Ethics Committee, the relevant regulator in this case, has now given Dr Niakan the go-ahead, making the UK the first country to approve gene editing and only the second to attempt it. China previously experimented on embryos but this was not approved by a regulator.

Single gene editing

The new technique, known as Crispr-Cas9 (CRISPR), is thought to be able to edit single genes, by making the 'faulty' gene inactive or replacing it with a healthy copy. This would alter the DNA of an embryo.

Experiments, which will begin later this year, would take place on the human embryo within the first seven days of its life, and afterwards it would be destroyed. The embryos will be donated by women who have some left over, after undergoing IVF treatment.

The practice has not only been criticised for destroying human life, but there are also concerns about both the technique’s unknown consequences and the potential to create ‘designer babies’.

Dr David King, director of the Human Genetics Alert organisation, said earlier this year: "This is the first step in a well-mapped-out process which is leading to GM babies, and a future of consumer eugenics."

'Misleading'

Scientists claim that CRISPR will be able to discover the reason for failed IVF and miscarriages.

"We would really like to understand the genes that are needed for an embryo to develop into a healthy baby," Dr Niakan claimed.

"Miscarriage and infertility are extremely common but they are not very well understood. We believe that this research could improve our understanding of the very earliest stages of human life."

"If we were to understand the genes, it could really help us improve infertility treatment and provide crucial insights into the causes of miscarriage."

Yet experts have warned that this claim is misleading. Earlier this year, Dr Peter Saunders of Christian Medical Fellowship said:

"The fact is that we already have quite a good understanding of what causes IVF failure and miscarriage and it has very little to do with anything that can fixed by Crispr-Cas9.

"Only abnormalities in single genes can be readily fixed with gene editing of the sort that the Crick Institute is proposing. Gene editing tools like Crispr-Cas9 do not fix chromosomal abnormalities".

Pushing boundaries

Dr Trevor Stammers, Programme Director in Bioethics and Medical Law at St Mary's University, has also spoken about the many concerns surrounding gene editing and its approval in the UK.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 in February, he outlined the moral problems with the destruction of human embryos and the dangers of introducing even restricted experimentation.

By gradually removing restrictions surrounding the technique, he explained, the practice will be "unstoppable", as scientists push to break further scientific boundaries.

'Ploughing ahead heedlessly'

Commenting on the Cambridge Research Ethics Committee’s approval of gene editing, Christian Concern’s Chief Executive, Andrea Williams, said:

"It is disappointing that an ethics committee should greenlight this kind of experimentation. The number of ethical considerations involved in gene editing has led many nations to warn against its use, yet here in the UK, scientists are ploughing ahead heedlessly. An ethics committee should aim to safeguard human lives at every stage, not condone their destruction for the purpose of experimentation."


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