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Unexpected Outcomes Sound Warning for Embryo Editing

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New research led by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and The University of Adelaide has uncovered a significant hurdle for realising the potential benefits of gene editing in embryos.

The team, led by Prof Paul Thomas, investigated North American research published last year that seemed to demonstrate that gene editing in human embryos was highly effective in repairing a defective gene in a majority of the embryos. However, Thomas says their new research, published in Nature (https://goo.gl/tv4HCa), provides an alternative explanation for the apparent gene correction – rather than gene editing technology fixing small errors, much larger errors were being created. “Gene editing technology is still relatively new, and part of this field of research includes understanding the flaws, which will ultimately allow us to develop the safest possible therapies for genetic conditions,” Thomas said.

Australia has strict legislation restricting gene editing in human embryos, so the researchers used preclinical animal models to replicate the North American study. “We looked beyond the small deletions, exploring larger areas of DNA,” said the research paper’s first author, Dr Fatwa Adikusuma. “When we searched a wider area, we found that repair of the DNA break generated by ‘...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.