Scientists could be given permission to genetically modify human embryos for the first time in the UK when controversial proposals go before the fertility regulator today.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is to consider an application from the Francis Crick Institute in London to alter genes in a bid to reduce miscarriages and infertility.
Dr Kathy Niakan, who is leading the research, said: “This is important because miscarriages and infertility are extremely common but not very well understood.
“You never can predict where the research will lead but we hope it would be a great benefit for fertility treatments in the long-term.”
Dr Niakan’s team wants to understand the early stages of human development by studying embryos, “surplus to requirement” from IVF treatment and donated by willing couples, during the first week of development.
The process would take place before the fertilised egg implants and examine how one cell — a zygote — on day one develops into a 64 to 256 cell blastocyst on days five to seven.
Each one would then be destroyed and not implanted.
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