Usher Institute

Comment on HFEA’s decision to grant a licence for gene editing in human embryos

[10 Feb 2016] Dr Sarah Chan, of the Usher Institute, comments on the news that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has granted a licence for gene editing in human embryos.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority announced in early February 2016, that it has granted a research application to a team led by scientist Kathy Niakan to try to understand the genes that human embryos need to grow successfully, which could potentially help prevent miscarriages.

Niakan, of the Francis Crick Institute, plans to use gene editing to analyze the first week of an embryo's growth.

Dr Sarah Chan, of the Usher Institute, commented on this news.

This is an encouraging step as it demonstrates that good science and effective ethical oversight can go hand-in-hand. Dr Niakan's research into the biology of early human development is valuable both for scientific knowledge and the therapeutic applications it may eventually produce, for example in treating infertility and in stem cell therapies. At the same time, 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. We should feel confident that our regulatory system in this area is functioning well to keep science aligned with social interests.

Dr Sarah ChanChancellor's Fellow, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics


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[Opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not neessarily express the views of the Usher Institute]