A Chinese team succeeded in performing the first DNA editing exercise on a human embryo
A team of scientists at the Sun Yat-sen University corrected a single error in the 3 billion “letters” of our genetic code to cure beta-thalassemia. A member of the team, Junjiu Huang, claims that they are the first to demonstrate the feasibility of curing genetic disease in human embryos by editing the base.
However, the embryo won’t be born. All the embryos used for these experiments were created by cloning patients with the blood disorder. However, it open the way to editing inherited diseases.
Currently, there are two teams worldwide that are working on human DNA editing: one Swedish at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the Chinese one.
This type of research aims to create genetically modified human beings, but also seeks to prevent diseases. At the same time, norms for conducting and publishing human-embryo-editing work are very sensitive.
One of the fears is that the procedure might open the way to “designer babies”. This means that rich people could become biologically superior, creating a division in our society.
Another fear is the possible introduction of “an error” in the gene pool, if a baby was to be born, creating a new hereditary disease.
And, the last fear is experimenting on embryos. Even though babies are not born as a result of the work done on them, there are legal regimes that consider them to be humans with their own moral standing.