Scientists have been given the go-ahead to create genetically modified humans, it has been revealed.
The fertility regulator known as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) have allowed scientists to create a DNA-altering technique in embryos.
As a result, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London will conduct further experiments into creating genetically modifying people.
The only thing they will not yet be able to do is implant the modified embryos into a woman.
The experiments will take place in the first seven days after fertilisation. This is the time we go from a fertilised egg to a structure called a blastocyst, containing 200-300 cells.
Dr Kathy Niakan will lead the research, which could start within the next few months.
However not everyone is in favour of the developments, with critics claiming it could fuel the rise of “designer babies” and have unintended consequences.
Dr David King, the director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “This research will allow the scientists to refine the techniques for creating GM babies, and many of the government’s scientific advisers have already decided that they are in favour of allowing that.
“So this is the first step in a well mapped-out process leading to GM babies, and a future of consumer eugenics.”
Dr Sarah Chan, from the University of Edinburgh, added: “The use of genome editing technologies in embryo research touches on some sensitive issues, therefore it is appropriate that this research and its ethical implications have been carefully considered by the HFEA before being given approval to proceed.
Other experts accused the regulator of brushing ethics aside.
Josephine Quintavalle, from the group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (Core), accused the HFEA of “arrogance”. She pointed out that a Nuffield Council expert panel looking at the ethics of gene editing had only completed its consultation yesterday.
“This is a very contentious and extremely dangerous area of embryo manipulation which is eliciting worldwide concern, and at the very least the HFEA should have waited until Nuffield had had a chance to examine responses.”
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