Scientists in China have successfully used “chemical surgery” on human embryos to remove disease for the first time — a breakthrough that could one day help treat or even prevent a host of inherited diseases.

“For many years, we have been saying that direct gene editing in embryos is some way in to the future,” Darren Griffin, a geneticist at the University of Kent, told The Guardian. “Now the future is here and there is much to consider.”

Specifically, Griffin suggested that the breakthrough opens a Pandora’s box of ethical questions and safety concerns over manipulating genes in embryos.

But regardless, the “chemical surgery” is an extremely important advancement, Griffin said. That’s because the Chinese researches used precise and targeted “base editor” techniques to zero in on one mutant gene among billions of genetic components, and then selectively fix that gene.

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