Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects


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The HIV virus uses this protein to attach to and infect the cell. At this point He has not provided a clear explanation of exactly how he disabled the CCR5 and the nature of the genetic modification. After this, the egg divided and formed a ball of dozens of cells — the embryo.

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At this stage, He removed a few cells from each embryo to determine if the desired genetic change was made. Based on my experience, the embryos were probably frozen at this point. Embryos without the edits or incorrect edits would either be discarded or used for research. For many applications, it is ideal to make any changes to the genes at the one-cell stage.

Then, when the embryo duplicates its DNA and divides to make a two-cell embryo, the genetic modification is also duplicated. This continues so that every cell in the resulting baby has the genetic change. However, it appears that the genetic modification in this case did not occur until the two-cell stage or later, because some cells in the babies had the modification, while others did not.

Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects, 2nd Edition

This situation is called mosaicism because the child is a mosaic of normal and edited cells. The first glitch is that no modification was made, which occurs frequently. A variation is that the change occurs in some cells of the embryo, but not in all the cells, as occurred in these babies. The most common worry is so-called non-target effects, in which the genetic modification is made, but other unintended edit s occur in other locations in the genome. Having a modification at the wrong place can cause all kinds of developmental problems, such as abnormal organ development, miscarriage and even cancers.

It is also not clear from the results He has shared so far whether this genetic change can be transmitted to the next generation. Another common problem already alluded to is mosaicism, which appears to have happened in one of these twins. If some cells are edited, and some not, the baby might have liver cells that contain the edited gene and heart cells that have the normal version, for instance. This may or may not lead to serious issues.

This sometimes occurs with routine procedures such as in vitro fertilization when there is no attempt to make genetic modifications.


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Fortunately, nature is quite good at weeding out abnormal embryos via embryonic death and spontaneous abortion. Even in healthy human populations reproducing normally, nearly half of embryos die before the woman even knows that she was pregnant. While I have emphasized what can go wrong, I believe that the science will evolve such that genetically modified babies will be healthier than unmodified ones. And these improvements will be passed on to future generations. Severely debilitating genetic abnormalities such as Tay-Sachs syndrome could be removed from a family by genetic modification.

Arguably, designer babies are already being born using a technique called pre-implantation genetic diagnoses PGD.

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A few cells from embryos are screened for dozens, and potentially hundreds, of genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs syndrome, to name a few. Parents are also able to choose those embryos of the desired sex.

In my view, choosing which embryos to implant is clearly making designer babies. A prospective parent can also choose other traits. When one of the prospective parents in infertile, there are catalogs that provide the race, height and weight, and even the educational level of a sperm or egg donor, who is also determined to be free of major genetic defects, and free of AIDS and other venereal diseases. In my opinion, if the procedures are deemed ethically and morally acceptable, most genetic modifications likely to be made editing embryos as He says he has done, will involve removal of harmful traits rather than adding desirable ones.

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Because the changes will be targeted, they will be more precise and less harmful than the mutations that occur randomly in DNA of essentially all sperm and eggs naturally. Become an FT subscriber to read: Scientists mend genetic defect in human embryo for first time Explore the new agenda We live in a time of disruption but where others see difficulty, we see opportunity - not just to survive but to thrive. Choose your subscription.

Fertility Breakthrough - Genetic Testing of Embryos by CGH

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Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects
Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects
Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects
Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects
Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects
Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects
Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects
Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects Embryos, Genes and Birth Defects

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