Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Second Genetically Modified Human Embryos Created


A second case of gene editing of human embryos has attempted to introduce resistance to HIV infection, but only four of the 26 embryos were modified successfully.

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“These Chinese researchers are trying to perfect the art of modifying genetic expression in human embryos. It follows on from a similar publication last year, also from China, which demonstrated... that genetic changes can be made but cannot be controlled. The implication is that if the embryo was implanted and a baby eventually born, the genetic makeup would be uncertain.

“This is very different from pre-implantation genetic testing carried out in Australia and other countries, which allows selection of a normal embryo during in vitro fertilisation for couples who both carry genes for a disorder, such as cystic fibrosis. There is no genetic manipulation with this method.

“For ethical reasons, the embryos used were abnormal, and not likely ever to develop into a foetus if implanted in the uterus. That in itself raises the question of whether the outcome of the experiments has clinical relevance, as others have previously shown that abnormal gametes are most unlikely to develop into a normal embryo.”

Professor Bernie Tuch is Director of the NSW Stem Cell Network and an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney.

“This paper is clearly looking toward human reproductive uses of this technology, about which there has been insufficient national and international discussion and debate, both within the scientific community...

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