As part of research into infertility and why miscarriages happen, the British government have granted its first licence for the genetic modification of human embryos in a move likely to raise ethical concerns.
“Our licence committee has approved an application from Dr. Kathy Niakan of the Francis Crick Institute to renew her laboratory’s research licence to include gene editing of embryos,” the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said in a statement.
Niakan has said she is planning to modify the embryos using a technique known as CRISPR-Cas90. The embryos will not become children as they must be destroyed within 14 days and can only be used for basic research. She plans to find the genes at play in the first few days of fertilisation when an embryo develops a coating of cells that later become the placenta.
The embryos to be used in the research are ones that would have been destroyed, donated by couples receiving In-Vitro Fertilisation treatment who do not need them.