Human embryos have been edited by using CRISPR/ Cas9 technology. This is the first time that this genome editing technology have been used in humans, and definitely is the beginning of a new era in medicine.
CRISPR is a high efficient genome editing tool, that can target almost anywhere within the genome. However, there had been recently some scary reports describing off target effects of CRISPR application in mouse. Due to this off target effects and some other issues, Dr. Jennifer Doudna asked for a halt in human trials.
That was the status of CRISPR until Shoukhrat Mitalipov from Oregon Health and Science University and his team, have, for the first time, performed DNA alterations in human embryos.
Why in embryos you may ask? Well, if you want any of those DNA changes to be present in all the cells of the organism, you will have to do it on an embryo. Otherwise, you will have to edit“cell by cell” of the organism to see those changes.
Therefore, CRISPR/Cas9 will allow for curing diseases even before a baby is born. The only drawback is that there is still not enough information or annotations of what mutations or divergences in DNA sequences give rise to diseases. Hence more basic science is still needed to unleash the full power of this technology.
In a recent visit of Dr. Doudna to Texas A&M university, she stressed the importance of understanding the ethics that this technology implies. There is a need for a collaboration between many different fields to set the limit on what CRISPR should be used on, and where CRISPRis out of limits. In my opinion, CRISPR/Cas9 can change and improvemedicine and health for millions of people. However, with great power, comes great responsibility.