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Less Fuss

The report last year that a research team in China used CRISPR-Cas9 to modify non-viable human zygotes touched off a storm of controversy, but Nature News reports that new gene-editing studies are now going ahead with less fuss.

After the Sun Yat-sen University researchers published their work in Protein & Cell, there was a backlash largely condemning the modification of germline human cells and calling for a discussion of the scientific and ethical issues of such research.

However, a recent paper from Yong Fan at Guangzhou Medical University and colleagues describing an attempt to modify non-viable human embryos to be resistant to HIV infection using CRISPR-Cas9 came out with a "fairly muted reaction," Nature News says. This and future studies, it says, will likely carry on.

It adds that the ethics board at Guangzhou Medical University has given the go-ahead to other gene-editing studies. While China seems to be taking the lead on gene editing studies, the UK has also approved a gene-editing study aimed at understanding the roles of certain genes in fertility and a Karolinska Institute researcher has approval for his studies of gene expression in human embryos using CRISPR-Cas9.

"People are more understanding of this research," Fan tells Nature News.