Scientists in the UK are now licenced to use gene modification in human embryos. This is the first time that scientists are given permission to genetically modify human embryos.
Evolutionary gene-editing technology known as Crispr-Cas9 will be used by researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London.
The licence was granted by the UK’s independent Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The committee added a caveat that no gene editing can take place until the research receives separate approval from an ethics panel, which could be achieved by March.
The project is being led by Dr Kathy Niakan at the Francis Crick Institute in London, and colleagues said they were “delighted” her licence application had been approved.
The research will see scientists cutting into the genetic code of embryos, isolating individual segments of DNA and assessing how they contribute to the early growth and behaviour of the embryos.
The project will use surplus embryos from IVF treatment which would have been destroyed anyway, and women will be required to give specific consent for them to be used in this way.
However, It remains illegal for the scientists to implant the altered human embryos into women.