Catch-up July 31st – Sept 29th

I have once again fallen behind in Rounding Up the news, so here play catch up, over what has been a very busy two months.
Genome editing
  • In a world first, a Chinese group have used a technique called base-editing to cure a genetic disease in a human embryos. Whereas CRISPR cuts DNA, base editing directly changes the base, leaving the DNA strand intact. The paper is from the same group that published the first CIRSPRing of human embryos. 
  • A survey of Americans found that about two thirds were generally accepting of genome editing for therapeutic purposes. About a third were supportive of genome editing for enhancement reasons.
  • First in human gene therapy trial in the US started, using Zing fingers to target Hemophilia A. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the two gene therapies approved in Europe have seen sales of only 3
  • The scientist who edited the first human embryo in the US stresses that the main result of his work was that the embryo did not incorporate the supplied healthy” DNA, but instead preferentially incorporated an extra copy of the mother’s DNA. This puts the prospect of designed babies further off.
  • Following news of germline human genome modification, several genetic professional societies published a joint statement on the future of the technology, covering the following positions: (1) At this time, given the nature and number of unanswered scientific, ethical, and policy questions, it is inappropriate to perform germline gene editing that culminates in human pregnancy. (2) Currently, there is no reason to prohibit in vitro germline genome editing on human embryos and gametes, with appropriate oversight and consent from donors, to facilitate research on the possible future clinical applications of gene editing. There should be no prohibition on making public funds available to support this research. (3) Future clinical application of human germline genome editing should not proceed unless, at a minimum, there is (a) a compelling medical rationale, (b) an evidence base that supports its clinical use, (c) an ethical justification, and (d) a transparent public process to solicit and incorporate stakeholder input.”
  • A version of CRISPR that acts on RNA, with potential clinical applications e.g. to Huntingtons.
  • CRISPRcon, help in Berkeley in August, was designed to pull people to talk about a world with genome editing.
  • A great quiz from the New York Times for seeing how up to the times you are on genetic engineering. Contains reference to several of the recent major stories. 
  • Meanwhile the Onion tackles the pros and cons of genome editing. 
  • And a nice summary from Ed Yong of what the recent human embryo editing means and doesn’t mean.
And on making babies
  • Some men are infertile because they have XXY or XYY sex chromosomes. Scientists have demonstrated a technique in mice where they create sperm from ear cells via stem cells, loosing one of the extra chromosomes along the way.  
  • On that note, a review of where we’re at with infertility technology, with a particular focus on making artificial gametes.
  • The FDA has sent a cease and desist letter to the NYC based doctor who was offering mitochondrial transfer to couples (so called three person babies, legal in the UK).