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UK may pioneer use of embryo gene editing on inherited illness.

A landmark study has raised the prospect of Britain pioneering the use of human embryo gene editing to eradicate inherited diseases.

Scientists in the US reached a new milestone by successfully altering DNA in defective embryos so they were no longer programmed to develop heart failure.

The highly controversial technique is still at an early experimental stage and there is no question of any attempt being made to create babies with the genetic modification, which would be illegal both in the US and the UK.

But a leading member of the team has hinted that first steps towards bringing the treatment to patients could take place in the UK under the direction of the fertility regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Dr Shoukhrat Mitalipov, from Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, said in a telephone briefing with journalists: "Maybe .. (the) HFEA might take a lead on this, but I'm quite sure before these clinical trials can go on they have to go through, I believe, Parliament to change a law. So there is still a long road ahead, particularly if you want to do it in a regulatory way."

US regulatory barriers to such research are so high they could be insurmountable. In the US, taxpayer funds cannot pay for research that destroys human embryos. The UK has already blazed a trail by becoming the first country officially to sanction mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), seen by some as opening the door to "designer babies".

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 3, 2017
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