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Scientists have discovered that the cells of early human embryos are often unable to repair damage to their DNA caused by the CRISPR/Cas gene editing process. The researchers say that this has important implications for the proposed use of gene editing to repair mutated genes, which underlie serious inherited diseases, as well as for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in general.

Commenting on her team's findings, lead researcher Dr Nada Kubikova from the University of Oxford, UK, said: “Gene editing has the potential to correct defective genes, a process that usually involves first breaking and then repairing the DNA strand. Our new findings provide a warning that commonly used gene editing technologies may have unwanted and potentially dangerous consequences if they are applied to human embryos.
“Our results show that the use of CRISPR/Cas9 in early human embryos carries significant risks. We have found that the DNA of embryo cells can be targeted with high efficiency, but unfortunately this rarely leads to the sort of changes needed to correct a defective gene. More often, the strand of DNA...