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Biotech Medicine United Kingdom

U.K. Researcher Receives Permission To Edit Genes In Human Embryos ( 64

sciencehabit writes: Developmental biologist Kathy Niakan has received permission from U.K. authorities to modify human embryos using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. Niakan, who works at the Francis Crick Institute in London, applied for permission to use the technique in studies to better understand the role of key genes during the first few days of human embryo development.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which grants licenses for work with human embryos, sperm, and eggs in the United Kingdom, approved Niakan's application at a meeting of HFEA's license committee on 14 January. The minutes of that meeting state that, '[o]n balance, the proposed use of CRISPR/Cas9 was considered by the Committee to offer better potential for success, and was a justified technical approach to obtaining research data about gene function from the embryos used.'

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U.K. Researcher Receives Permission To Edit Genes In Human Embryos

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 01, 2016 @02:53PM (#51415889)


    (and some filler to make sure Slashdot doesn't block this because of excessive capitalization)

  • by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @03:08PM (#51416011)

    welcome our new crispy overlords...

    Aside: Anyone else think of a drawer in the refrigerator or apples when anyone mentions CRISPR?

  • chmod -R 777 /embryo/human/DNA


    Open C:\embryo\human and right-click on folder "DNA". Click on the "Security" tab and then click the "Edit..." button. In the "Permissions for DNA" window, click the "Add..." button.

    Now, in the "Select Users, Computers, Service Accounts, or Groups", click in the "Enter the object names to select (examples):" text box and type, "UK\Users" then click "OK".

    Assure that the checkbox "Full control" is selected in the "Permissions for Users" area.

    Finally click "OK"
  • ...of civilisation:
    The term ‘eugenics’ was first used by Francis Galton in 1883 when examining the “comparative worth” of different races, to describe the improvement of man through “better breeding“. Other terms that evolved included:
    Dysgenic: Elements believed to increase the occurrence of undesirable genes.
    Negative eugenics: Those classified as the ‘genetically unfit.’
    Eugenic: Elements believed to increase the occurrence of desirable genes.
    Positive euge

    • The Nazis and others abuses did a very poor job with eugenics, and destroyed the reputation of the field. Now it's impossible to even bring the subject up without immediate cries of 'NAZI!' killing the debate.

      • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

        Eugenics predates Nazism by quite a number of years. Nothing good ever came of either.

        • Exactly. The record in the rest of the world was of forced sterilizations of people who, in many cases, had conditions for which there is no genetic component, or only a partial genetic component. There were a lot of victims of eugenics programs in the US and Canada, and it is indeed a shameful episode in North American history.

          There's no "doing it right". It's one thing to repair genes that lead to conditions like autosomal disorders. It's quite another to sterilize people because they have mood disorders.

          • I can see a way to do it right:
            1. Identify people who have genes that are, quite clearly, not desirable in a very strong way. Huntington's would be a good place to start.
            2. Explain to these people that they really ought not to breed. It'd be foolhardy. If they absolutely insist then there's not much that can be done to stop them, but they ought to have some sense of responsibility.
            3. Here's a voucher for fast-track fostering/adoption processing, free sterilisation and IVF with PGD where possible. Use a sper

            • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

              1. invasive.
              2. Be ready for lots of "Fuck off out of my face or I'll make you eat your nose, you fucking Nazi."
              3. Be ready for lots of "Fuck off out of my face and stick your voucher up your arse as far as it'll go, and make sure there's enough room for my fist because that's going up there as well to rip out your spine."

            • Which is another attempt at incentivizing sterilization. It is unethical. Period.

              • It is.

                But allowing people to breed, knowing they will create offspring doomed to die of a terrible genetic condition, when there are alternative options available? Also unethical.

                Life does not give you nice right-and-wrong dilemmas. Sometimes you have to decide which one is the least wrong. I'm going with the eugenics option. It isn't even that invasive: There are alternative options available for obtaining a child without passing on the bad genes.

      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @05:22PM (#51416919) Journal

        The problem with the field is that while for some genetic diseases, it's obvious that the elimination of those genes would in general be good, there are a good many traits that are either not really that bad, or where questionable methodologies have been used to declare them bad, or even worse where there is no genetic component whatsoever (ie. some if not many forms of mental disorder have little or genetic causation).

        Forced sterlization, or even the nearly as insidious notion of "encouraging" sterilization (either through financial or other inducement) are just plain wrong. If there is any notion of human dignity, of basic liberty and freedoms, the idea that someone can be declared sufficiently atypical that you're going to disable their ovaries or testes has to be seen as wrong at the most basic level.

        The other issue, of course, is what evolutionary sciences ACTUALLY teach us is that "purity" is the worst thing you can have. Variation in sexually producing species is absolutely tantamount to a species surviving in anything but the most closed environments. Accepting that essential notion of biology, that diversity is the engine of evolution, means accepting that sometimes evolutionary forces, at the individual level, are going to produce variants that will have some degree of lesser fitness than the norm.

        I'm not arguing that we can't edit embryos, or even applying gene therapies to people after birth, and indeed there are genetic afflictions that I don't think anyone could argue we shouldn't try to eliminate. But eugenics is inevitably going to drift into areas where, even if there is a genetic "fix", the case that we are even looking at some trait generally agreed upon as sub-optimal should be insufficient to simple excise those genes from the gene pool.

        And really, there was no "good" eugenics. There were certainly more strident applications of eugenics, of which the Nazis were the most egregious examples, but North America's flirtation with eugenics, which lasted well past the middle of the last century, were completely unethical and violated the most basic liberties anyone can ever have.

  • 20 years or so from now, people not genetically "optimized" for a certain sport won't make it into the top ranks.

    I don't mind, though, since everyone else can still enjoy sports for the fun of it. It's not like people stopped playing chess just because a PC is better than a grandmaster in that discipline...

    • by narcc ( 412956 )

      Didn't we hear the same thing in the mid-90's, before the biotech industry collapsed the first time. (It's crashing now ... again ... )

      Why, yes, it is 20 years later. Still no designer babies.

  • Imagine if Galileo had to 'ask permission' from the church to be allowed to use a telescope to look at the sky and 'ask for permission' to take observations that could propose heliocentric theory. We would still think the earth is the center of the universe, absurd.

    Real scientists don't ask for permission... they just methodically investigate.

    Also, real scientists aren't afraid of being punished by authorities, because their results disagree with popular notions.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I take it you are not a scientist. Running a molecular biology lab costs money. Also it's not that their results disagree with the authorities, it's that the authorities would rather not have people bilked out of their money and possibly their life by quacks selling cures to the desperate. I know science and especially medicine isn't perfect in that regard, but it's better than chaos.

  • "Now, would you like your child to have feet, or pods?"
  • vi or emacs?

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