UK scientists allowed to genetically modify human embryos – regulator

© Alessia Pierdomenico
British scientists have been given the green light to genetically modify human embryos for the first time.

The experiments will be the carried out by the Francis Crick Institute in London and are to take place on embryos in the first seven days after fertilization.

Scientists hope the research will provide explanations behind what goes wrong in miscarriages and a deeper understanding of the beginnings of human life.

Now that the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has given permission for the experiments, they could begin in the next few months.

Although scientists will be legally allowed to modify human embryos, they will not be allowed to implant the embryos into women.

Lead scientist on the project Dr. Kathy Niakan said earlier this year she wants to understand what causes common problems such as miscarriages and infertility.

“We would really like to understand the genes needed for a human embryo to develop successfully into a healthy baby.

“The reason why it is so important is because miscarriages and infertility are extremely common, but they’re not very well understood,” she said.

Francis Crick Institute Director Paul Nurse told BBC News the research will enhance scientists’ understanding of IVF success rates.

“I am delighted that the HFEA has approved Dr. Niakan’s application,” he said.

“Dr. Niakan’s proposed research is important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops and will enhance our understanding of IVF success rates, by looking at the very earliest stage of human development.”