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DNA experiment pits U.S. versus China on ethics

A new discovery raises more questions about the use of human embryos in cloning in the U.S. Chinese scientists are less concerned and are moving forward with the experiments

A few days ago, several scientists reported that they had figured out how to genetically modify the genes in human embryos, a practice that has raised ethical concerns.

The researchers have successfully changed the genetic make-up of a human embryo, so that genetic change can be transferred over to upcoming generations.

Researchers are using gene therapies, editing of genomes that can combat inherited diseases; this method is positive and respectable, for it can alter the way we battle diseases that are passed on through heredity. Other scientists are fearful of this method because it can lead to unpredictable results in the genetic makeup.

Some people have suggested a temporary prohibition of any germ-line research involving human reproductive cells. Science and Nature are two highly-reputable scientific journals that have refused to publish the results of the scientists who have genetically modified the genes in human embryos; their explanation was ethical grounds.

Before this type of use of technology can be harnessed and processed, there needs to be a societal discussion of the scientific and ethical issues that revolve around modifying genes in human embryos. The scientists have developed a tool that is able to slice up DNA, which is a molecule that holds the normal instructions to covering the formation of the majority of organisms.

For more than four decades the ability to snip off a segment of DNA and replace it has been around, but not in an orchestrated and nuanced form. The new tool connects small strands of RNA with an enzyme that is efficient at snipping DNA.

Dr. Huang and his team at Sun Yat-sen University began with 86 fertilized but defective eggs from a fertility clinic.

The eggs were defective and couldn’t have turned into live births because of the ethical concerns that circle the use of normal embryos. Anything is possible with gene-line editing and even though scientists hold ethical concerns and apprehension, the future is here and experimenting with human embryos is inevitable.

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