U.K scientists were given the permission to genetically modify human embryos. The permission will help the scientists determine what causes miscarriages.

They will genetically modify the early embryos and observe their development for 1 week. The research will be carried out in London, in the Francis Crick Institute. The researchers will carry out the study on 30 embryos and they hope to have more embryos in the future.

The permission to the scientists was given by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority of the United Kingdom. HFEA stores embryos, eggs and human sperm and regulates all the clinics that provide IVF. However, the research cannot be carried out until an ethics committee approves it. This is supposed to happen in March and the scientists will be able to observe the embryos development until they have 250 cells. The embryos must not be implanted into a woman. Strict regulations forbid this.

Dr. Niakan of the Francis Crick Institute allowed the research to be carried out. She is looking forward to the discovery of which genes affect the development of the embryos and how something goes wrong and the result is miscarriage or infertility. Around half of 100 fertilized eggs are not able to reach the beginning stages of development. Only 25% of fertilized eggs are successfully implemented into a woman’s womb. According to mouse models, genetic mutations may be the fact of determination whether an embryo will be successful or not.

Even though genetic modification of embryos has raised many ethical issues, the potential benefits of the study can definitely be really important in determining the reasons behind infertility and miscarriages.

The embryos used in the research are donated by couples who are going through IVF treatment and have a surplus of embryos. The scientist will use a gene editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9 to identify, remove and insert specific genes. The specific gene that the scientist will use is OCT4 and with its activation and deactivation they will see how this gene affects the early development of human embryos.

Although most scientists around the world support this research, others oppose it stating that genetic editing will alter the human kind. However, this can happen only if the embryos are implemented and as we already mentioned, implementation of these embryos is illegal.