Thanks to the new licence, scientists at the Francis Crick Institute will be able to use a system called CRISPR/Cas9 (which is like an IRL copy-and-paste tool for DNA) to modify the genes of developing embryos, with the goal of improving IVF success rates and reducing miscarriages.
This is the first time a national regulatory body anywhere in the world has given the procedure the green light, and it's a huge day for science. But the move has also sparked a lot of concern about the creation of designer babies.
The facts you can share:
- Genetically editing humans isn't suddenly 'legal' in the UK
- The embryos used in the experiments will come from donors
- Don't worry, nothing's happening without ethics approval
- The embryos won't be brought to term
- This work could finally reveal how a healthy human embryo develops
- Experts are calling the decision a "victory for level-headed regulation over moral panic"
- But critics are worried that we're on a path towards designer babies
- This isn't the first time that human embryos will be genetically modified
- Still, CRISPR/Cas 9 is a really big deal
- There’s no sign of gene editing being allowed in human embryos in the US any time soon
10 things you need to know about the UK allowing genetic modification of human embryos