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Embryo Editing Application Considered

The UK Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority is to consider this week an application submitted by researchers seeking to perform gene editing on human embryos to examine early-stage development, the Guardian reports.

As GenomeWeb has previously reported, the Francis Crick Institute's Kathy Niakan and her colleagues have applied to use the CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing tool to study miscarriage. The Guardian and Reuters add that Niakan and her team plan to knock out up to four genes — including Oct4 — in day-old human embryos to gauge their effects on development during the following week.

"The research could lead to improvements in fertility treatment and to a better understanding of the first stages of life," Niakan told reporters at a London briefing, according to the Guardian.

UK law doesn't allow genome editing of embryos for treatment, but does for research purposes, if an HFEA license is obtained.

The paper adds that Niakan's team could be granted a license as early as today to carry out the work, though it's more likely that the regulator will seek additional information.

All embryos that would be used in the research would come from ones donated by couples that had a surplus after IVF treatments, and they would not be implanted into women.