Tags: Health Topics | gene editing | sperm | embryos | dna | science | genetics

Report: Human Sperm Gene Editing Aims to Alter Generations

Report: Human Sperm Gene Editing Aims to Alter Generations

By    |   Thursday, 22 August 2019 09:35 PM

Scientists have already edited DNA in human embryos — now they are trying to alter the DNA in human sperm so changes can be passed on to future generations, NPR reported.

Reproductive biologists at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City are using the gene-editing technique called CRISPR to try to prevent disorders caused by genetic mutations that are passed down from men — including some forms of male infertility. 

And though experiments are just starting and have not yet been successful, the research raises many of the same hopes — and fears — as editing the DNA of human embryos. 

"I think it's important from the scientific point of view to investigate in an ethical manner to be able to learn if it's possible," Gianpiero Palermo of  the Andrology Laboratory at Weill Cornell's Center for Reproductive Medicine, and a professor of embryology in obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine, told NPR.

"If we can wipe out a particular gene, it would be incredible," Palermo said. "Theoretically, in principal, this would be a major, major benefit to society."

Others say the DNA editing is worrisome.

"It doesn't matter whether you're manipulating the embryo or you're manipulating the sperm," Francoise Baylis, a bioethicist at Dalhousie University in Canada, said of gene editing.

"The concern is what kind of world are you creating as you move down the path to start manipulating human genetics," Baylis said. "We're on the cusp of prospective parents controlling the genetics of their offspring."

A Chinese scientist shocked the world last year when he announced he had used CRISPR to create the world's first genetically modified babies to protect them from AIDS. The scientist was fired.

"There's reason to worry about undertaking the research before we've asked the question properly whether we would ever actually want to use those techniques," Ben Hurlbut, a bioethicist at Arizona State University in Tempe, told NPR. 

"Once those techniques are developed, it becomes much harder to govern them. If you've done the hard work of developing the recipe, someone else can bake the cake."

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So changes can be passed on to future generations, scientists are trying to alter the DNA in human sperm, according to an NPR report.
gene editing, sperm, embryos, dna, science, genetics
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2019-35-22
Thursday, 22 August 2019 09:35 PM
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