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UK Scientists Apply for Permission to Edit Embryos With CRISPR/Cas9 in Miscarriage Study

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Scientists from The Francis Crick Institute have applied to the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), the UK's regulator of fertility treatment and research, for a license to conduct CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in embryos for a research study on miscarriage.

"We have recently received an application to use CRISPR/Cas9 in one of our licensed research projects, and it will be considered in due course," an HFEA spokesperson told GenomeWeb in an email. Genome editing of embryos for research-only purposes has been permissible since 2009, but not permissible in treatments. In addition, editing must meet criteria spelled out in legislation and must be done under an HFEA license.

Led by Kathy Niakan, scientists from the Crick Institute intend to use CRISPR/Cas9 as a tool in a study looking into why some women miscarry. Niakan and the Crick Institute did not respond to GenomeWeb's requests for an interview.

"No decision has yet been made about when the application will be considered. It is an operational matter contingent on a number of administrative matters being organized," the HFEA spokesperson said, adding that the request is the first and only application to the regulator for the use of this CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in embryos.

In April, scientists from Sun Yat-sen University in China edited non-viable tripronuclear zygotes using CRISPR/Cas9 in a proof-of-concept study published in Protein & Cell.