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Ethics – Embryo factory warning

November 2017

Embryo factories could be set up in the UK to provide fodder for ‘research’, a genetic scientist has warned.

Professor Jennifer Doudna, who pioneered a gene-editing technique called Crispr-Cas9, warned that such facilities could end up churning out human lives in the name of medical research.

Speaking after the Francis Crick Institute in London carried out a study into miscarriage, during which a section of human DNA was cut from human embryos, resulting in the destruction of nearly all of them, she warned such experimentation kept ‘her awake at night’.

Prof. Doudna commented such research could act as a slippery slope for scientists working on gene editing, and warned that, in the race to be first, the UK’s medical science experts could end up crossing more moral and ethical lines.

In the Francis Crick Institute study, scientists removed a gene producing the OCT4 protein from embryos as they started to develop. Without this protein, the vast majority of embryos died. The researchers claimed they had gained useful information for IVF procedures and understanding causes of miscarriage.