The first genetically-modified human embryos could be created in Britain within weeks according to the scientists who are about to learn whether their research proposal has been approved by the fertility watchdog.
Although it will be illegal to allow the embryos to live beyond 14 days, and be implanted into the womb, the researchers accepted that the research could one day lead to the birth of the first GM babies should the existing ban be lifted for medical reasons.
A licence application to edit the genes of “spare” IVF embryos for research purposes only is to be discussed on 14 January by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), with final approval likely to be given this month.
Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute in London said that if they are given the go-ahead they could begin work straight away, leading to the first transgenic human embryos created in Britain within the coming weeks or months.
The researchers emphasised that the research concerns the fundamental causes of infertility and involves editing of the genes of day-old IVF embryos that will not be allowed to develop beyond the seven-day “blastocyst” stage – it will be illegal to implant the modified embryos into the womb to create GM babies.
SOURCES – Science Daily, Independent UK