Oregon team edits genes in human embryos

Embryo and pipette
A pipette injects CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tools into a mouse embryo. Oregon researchers have reportedly conducted similar experiments using human embryos. (University of Utah Health Sciences Photo)

Chinese researchers crossed a threshold last year when they used CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tools to modify human embryos, and now Oregon researchers have reportedly crossed it as well.

report in MIT Technology Review suggests that the team at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland improved upon the results from China by modifying embryos earlier in their development.

OHSU confirmed that a study was in the works, but said there was nothing more to share at this time.

“Results of the peer-reviewed study are expected to be published soon in a scientific journal,” OHSU spokesman Erik Robinson said in an email to GeekWire.

Genetic experiments with embryos are controversial because they could involve changing the human genetic code in ways that can be passed along to a person’s progeny. That raises the prospect of creating subspecies of genetically modified humans with enhanced traits.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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