by Benson Agoha | Opinion
* A research study involving gene editing on early human embryos
(8-cell embryo about three days post-fertilization shown)
has been given the go-ahead in England. The second of its type in the world.
The news that Dr Kathy Niakan, a British researcher was given permission to edit human embryos, through application from the Francis Crick Institute, made an interesting news.
A British first, the research will be only the second of its kind in the world, after an earlier attempt by a team of Chinese researched failed.
The work carried out at the Crick will be for research purposes and will look at the first seven days of a fertilised egg's development (from a single cell to around 250 cells).
The objective, the Francis Crick Institute announced was that the knowledge acquired from the research will be important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops.
And Dr Niakan and her team will be working to understand more about human embryo development after in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
It might even provide better clinical treatments for infertility, using conventional medical methods.
And who knows, as with most research, there might be a chance that cancer and some other dreadful diseases that still defy treatment and claim numerous valuable human lives, may be better understood.
But the fact that the research was only approved after a clear assurance that all human embryos involved in the study will be destroyed thereafter left a somewhat bitter taste.
|* Dr Kathy Niakan may new to review their application|
for editing of human embryos, say Benson Agoha.
If one was to have his way, perhaps The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) may be urged to reconsider the possibility of granting a new approval for a more far reaching study.
* Is it not possible, for example to allow a person from a family with a long history of crime to apply for modification of their future baby's embryo in a bid to save him from crime.
* Or for a couple whose future children are at the risk of becoming terrorists to apply for modification of their genes before their birth?
* What if we can stop a baby from becoming gay or lesbian simply by modifying it's embryo after laboratory analysis?
Of course, there is no doubt that parents will still have to be making a tough choice, but given that their choice will not be an exclusive one, and may be tripartite in nature, involving representatives of the government, the medical professionals and the parents, it seems a good suggestion.
And who knows, a new application may not even be necessary because, according to the Francis Crick Institute announcement, the genome editing research still needs to gain `ethical approval' before the research can begin.
According to the Francis Crick Institute statement: "In line with HFEA regulations, any donated embryos will be used for research purposes only and cannot be used in treatment," adding
"These embryos will be donated by patients who have given their informed consent to the donation of embryos which are surplus to their IVF treatment."
Perhaps a review is necessary.