Remember when the Chinese said, earlier this year, that they took 86 human embryos so that they could modify their genes? The medical world was literally split asunder. Some embraced the yes, others the no and debates arose as to why modifying genes is not what the future holds for humanity. Despite the Chinese’s desire to do something good, many argued that it was not something right.
The main idea behind this attempt of genetic modification was to change one gene that leads to the development of β-thalassaemia. This is a blood disorder that, if left unchecked, can lead to demise and it is something that researchers wanted to comprehend and “program” in the human genes, so that it would not develop ever again.
So why is a “few months piece of news” of such importance now? Because British scientists want to take up genetic modification as well. Their purpose is not only to cure future diseases, but to also promote the technology and show that it has potential for future tests and that it can save many generations to come.
The woman behind the attempt is Kathy Niakan, an ambitious stem-cell researcher from the Francis Crick Institute of London. Kathy Niakan has presented her attempt to the country regulators: to observe how and what genes play an important role in the development of the fetus within its first days.
Niakan’s process becomes dangerous once she starts, as she put it, “to switch genes off and on” and see how modifications lead to different results in how the placenta is formed. Niakan believes that her study can give great insight into how a human embryos can grow healthy. Furthermore, the study might show why miscarriage occurs.
While the entire process will be shaped by a legal approach such as acquiring embryos from specific couples and growing them within a woman for no more than 2 weeks, the science field is still torn apart. There are British scientists who have come to the project’s aid and said that it can only be a step forward.
Some of these scientists are Peter Braude and Sarah Chan. Braude, who is an outstanding professor at King’s College London stated that this is all about “understanding nature, not changing embryos”. Chan, from the University of Edinburgh also mentioned that this project is a “cause of confidence, not concern”.
Perhaps it would be a good idea to simply drop our preconceptions about the subject and see it for its benefits. Who knows what diseases we might be able to eradicate with the help of such projects?
Photo Credits staticflickr.com
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