The genetic manipulation of human IVF embryos is set to start in Britain for the first time following a license application by scientists who want to understand why some women suffer repeated miscarriages.
If the research licence is granted by the Government’s fertility watchdog it will be only the second known occasion in the world where the chromosomes of human embryos have been genetically manipulated using a revolutionary gene-editing technique called Crispr/Cas9.
When Chinese scientists announced earlier this year that they had genetically altered “spare” human IVF embryos using Crispr/Cas9 for research purposes, there was deep concern among many who thought that they had gone too far – the US Government later imposed a moratorium on federally-funded research in America.
The researchers behind the UK application emphasized that the GM embryos will be destroyed once the study is completed, with no risk of them being transplanted into women – which is illegal in Britain. There will be no “GM babies” as the project is aimed solely at basic research into the genetics of early human development, they insisted.