British scientists have been given the go-ahead by the fertility regulator to genetically modify human embryos, BBC has reported.
It is the first time a country has considered the DNA-altering technique in embryos and approved it, said the global channel. The research will take place at the Francis Crick Institute in London and aims to provide a deeper understanding of the earliest moments of human life.
It will be illegal for the scientists to implant the modified embryos into a woman. But the field is attracting controversy over concerns it is opening the door to designer — or GM — babies.
DNA is the blueprint of life — the instructions for building the human body. Gene editing allows the precise manipulation of DNA. In a world-first last year, scientists in China announced they had carried out gene editing in human embryos to correct a gene that causes a blood disorder.
Prof. Robin Lovell-Badge, a scientific advisor to the UK's fertility regulator, told the BBC: "China has guidelines, but it is often unclear exactly what they are until you've done it and stepped over an unclear boundary.
This is the first time it has gone through a properly regulatory system and been approved." The experiments will take place in the first seven days after fertilization.