In a first, human embryos edited with CRISPR/Cas9 to explore gene function | Science News

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In a first, human embryos edited to explore gene function

CRISPR/Cas9 is used to ‘knock out’ a gene needed to develop properly

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1:24pm, September 20, 2017
human blastocysts

EMBRYO, INTERRUPTED  A 5-day-old human embryo is usually composed of about 200 cells in a hollow ball configuration called a blastocyst (left). Embryos edited to remove the OCT4 gene (right) fail to make normal blastocysts.

For the first time, researchers have disabled a gene in human embryos to learn about its function.

Using molecular scissors called CRISPR/Cas9, researchers made crippling cuts in the OCT4 gene, Kathy Niakan and colleagues report September 20 in Nature. The edits revealed a surprising role for the gene in the development of the placenta.

Researchers commonly delete and disable genes in mice, fruit flies, yeast and other laboratory critters to investigate the genes’ normal roles, but have never done this before in human embryos. Last year, government regulators in the United Kingdom gave permission for Niakan, a developmental biologist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, and colleagues to perform gene editing on human embryos left over from in vitro fertilization treatments (SN Online: 2/1/16). The researchers spent

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