The blueprint for life – DNA – has been altered in human embryos for the first time in the UK. The team at the Francis Crick Institute are unravelling the mysteries of the earliest moments of life.
Understanding what happens after a sperm fertilises an egg could lead to ways of improving IVF or explain why some women miscarry. The embryos were modified shortly after fertilisation and allowed to develop for seven days. The researchers are exploring one of the most astounding of transformations.
These experiments have been legal since 2008 in the UK, where it is possible to manipulate such embryos for 14 days as long as they are not implanted. But while this application of the technology is answering fundamental questions of science, other research groups are trying to remove genes that cause disease. That is provoking deep ethical debate.