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Microsopic image of fertilized egg.

As the scientific community takes in the work of the team who edited the DNA of the human embryos this month, different opinions about the safety, efficacy, and potential of the technique abound.


In a lab at Oregon Health & Science University, biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov and a team of experts have been exploring and learning how to edit the DNA in human embryos efficiently and safely. This month, they announced their successful edit and correction of a mutation which causes a heart condition that can be fatal — hopefully the first landmark step of many on the road to preventing thousands of genetic diseases with editing.

To edit an embryo, a researcher will begin by taking a human egg and monitoring it on a computer screen. They will then inject, with a pipette, donor sperm and CRISPR, microscopic chemical sequences that act as a gene-editing tool, that is designed to make the precise desired edit. CRISPR then goes to work, slicing the target defect from the DNA. After this editing process, the scientists place the embryos...