Earlier this week, over a hundred scientists, lawyers, and entrepreneurs gathered to discuss the radical possibility of creating a synthetic human genome. Strangely, journalists were not invited, and attendees were told to keep a tight lip. Which, given the weighty subject matter, is obvious cause for concern.
While scientists around the world continue to debate the use of the CRISPR/Cas9 system, the tool capable of precisely editing DNA on the genomic level, British scientists working at the Francis Crick Institute in London announced today that they have applied for permission from the United Kingdom’s fertility regulator (the UK Human Fertilization & Embryology Authority) to use this technique on viable human embryos. If granted, this would allow them to directly study humans’ earliest stage of development and would mark the first approval by a national regulatory body to employ the CRISPR/Cas9 system on viable human embryos.