Facing criticism from fellow scientists, the researcher behind the world’s largest effort to edit human embryos with CRISPR is vowing to continue his efforts to develop what he calls “IVF gene therapy.” MIT Technology Review: Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, drew global headlines last August when he reported successfully repairing a genetic mutation in dozens of human embryos, which were later destroyed as part of the experiment. The laboratory findings on early-stage embryos, he said, had brought the eventual birth of the first genetically modified humans “much closer” to reality. The breakthrough drew wide attention, including from critics who quickly pounced, calling it biologically implausible and potentially the result of careless errors and artifacts. Today, those critics are getting an unusual hearing in the journal Nature, which is publishing two critiques of the Oregon research as well as a lengthy reply from Mitalipov and 31 of his coworkers in South Korea, China, and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. The scientific sparring centers on CRISPR’s well-known tendency to introduce unseen damage into a cell’s DNA.
[…] Mitalipov remains intent on proving that CRISPR can work safely on embryos. In an interview, Mitalipov said he believes it will take five to 10 years before the process is ready to attempt in an IVF center. The revolutionary medical technology being pursued is a way to adjust an embryo’s DNA to remove disease risks. It is sometimes called germline gene editing because any DNA fixes a baby is born with would then be passed down to future generations through that person’s germ cells, the egg or sperm. For its initial research, the Oregon team recruited women around Portland and paid them $5,000 each to undergo an egg retrieval. With those eggs the team created more than 160 embryos for CRISPR experiments. Mitalipov said his Oregon center continues to obtain eggs in an ongoing effort to confirm his results and extend them in new directions.
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