Rejoice—and perhaps strap on your finest pair of “head for the hills” shoes—for scientists in China have finally produced what the rest of the world is terrified of: genetically-modified human embryos.

The laywoman’s breakdown, via Raw Story:

Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, and colleagues describe how they edited the genomes of embryos obtained from a fertility clinic.

The embryos were described as non-viable, and could not have resulted in a live birth because they had an extra set of chromosomes after being fertilized by two sperm.

And a slightly more technical version, via Engadget:

For the first time in history, a team of researchers have successfully edited the genes of a human embryo. The researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou reportedly used the CRISPR/Cas9 technique to knock a gene called HBB, which causes the fatal blood disorder β-thalassaemia, out of donor embryos. The CRISPR/Cas9 method utilizes a complex enzyme (aka a set of “genetic scissors”) to snip out and replace faulty gene segments with functional bits of DNA.

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The findings were first published in the online journal Protein & Cell, which sounds like something you might peruse before having your body fat measured by a personal trainer.

Either way: scientists in the United States are calling for China to stop its research, which the Chinese scientists say they’ve done already (but who knows), save for a team of unnamed researchers who are rumored to be performing the same experiments. Still, some experts are calling the research “groundbreaking,” flaws and all, but also pointing out that technology is not there yet to make genetically-modified embryo production a viable (or ethical, depending on your stance) thing.

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Image via AP


Contact the author at karyn@jezebel.com.