UK scientists gain licence to edit genes in human embryos for research Published on: 06/02/2016
On February 1st, 2016, the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has approved an application by developmental biologist Kathy Niakan, at the Francis Crick Institute in London, to use the genome-editing technique CRISPR–Cas9 in healthy human embryos. Niakan’s team is interested in early development, and it plans to alter genes that are active in the first few days after fertilization. The researchers will stop the experiments after seven days, after which the embryos will be destroyed. The genetic modifications could help researchers to develop treatments for infertility, but will not themselves form the basis of a therapy. This approval represents the world's first endorsement of such research by a national regulatory authority.