Human embryos edited to stop disease
The team hopes that the technique will help in reducing the burden of heritable disease on the family.
For the first time, an international team of scientists have discovered a way to successfully edit/free embryos of a piece of faulty DNA that causes deadly heart disease in families.
The process, named as CRISPR, was completed without introducing any harmful mutations, which was a problem in previous attempts. In short, CRISPR is a gene-editing technique which allows scientists to insert, remove and correct DNA within a cell with pinpoint precision.
The discovery published online on 3 August 2017 in the journal Nature potentially opens the door to prevent 10000 disorders that are passed down the generations. Its applications in medicine are vast and include the idea of wiping out genetic faults that cause diseases from cystic fibrosis to breast cancer.
The US and the South Korean team allowed the embryos to develop for five days before stopping the experiment. US teams at Oregon Health and Science University and the Salk Institute along with the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea focused on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
HCM is a common disorder that affects people of any age (men or women). Reports suggest that affects one in every 500 people and it is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young people, including young athletes.
About the process
To develop the technique named CRISPR, a gene editing tool, the team used sperm from a donor carrying the mutation and eggs from healthy women. Later, the injected the CRISPR-Cas9 editing tool into the eggs and found that about 72 per cent of embryos were free from the errant gene.