Scientists in Britain have been given the go-ahead to genetically modify embryos for the first time in the United Kingdom and the second time in the world.
The researchers at The Francis Crick Institute in London, who originally sought approval in September last year, will use the CRISPR DNA editing technique to determine how an embryo’s genes impact its survival in the first week of life.
'We would really like to understand the genes needed for a human embryo to develop successfully into a healthy baby,” says Dr Kathy Niakan, who will lead the research.
“The reason why it is so important is because miscarriages and infertility are extremely common, but they're not very well understood.”
The findings could offer significant insight into recurrent miscarriages and increase the chances of IVF success, but critics say the technology could be used to build designer babies.
Dr David King, the director of Human Genetics Alert, says, “This research will allow the scientists to refine the techniques for creating genetically modified babies, and many of the Government’s scientific advisors have already decided that they are in favour of doing that,”
“This is the first step in a well mapped-out process leading to GM babies, and a future of consumer eugenics.”
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, who approved the research, have emphasised that the embryos can only be used for basic research and cannot be implanted in women.