It has finally happened:
In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted—rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month about the ethical implications of such work.
In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using 'non-viable' embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications.