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Scientists in US Successfully Edit Genes of Human Embryos in the First Attempt

Citing certain ethical concerns, the U.S. Congress has made it illegal to turn genetically-edited embryos into babies

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DNA double helix, genes
A DNA double helix is seen in an undated artist's illustration released by the National Human Genome Research Institute. For the first time, U.S. scientists have successfully edited genes of human embryos. VOA
  • Scientists at the Oregon Health and Science University have successfully edited genes of human embryos in the first such attempt in the United States
  • Engineering human genes in the embryo stage opens up the possibility of correcting their defective parts that cause inherited diseases
  • Oregon scientists successfully repeated the experiment on scores of embryos created with sperm donated for scientific purposes by men with inherited disease mutations

July 29, 2017: Scientists at the Oregon Health and Science University say they have successfully edited genes of human embryos in the first such attempt in the United States.

Previously, similar experiments have been reported only by scientists in China.

Engineering human genes in the embryo stage opens up the possibility of correcting their defective parts that cause inherited diseases. The new trait is passed on to subsequent generations.

But the practice is controversial, since many fear it could be used for unethical purposes such as creating “designer babies” with specific enhanced abilities or traits.

Oregon scientists led by Kazakhstan-born Shoukhrat Mitalipov successfully repeated the experiment on scores of embryos created with sperm donated for scientific purposes by men with inherited disease mutations.

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The editing was done very close to the moment of fertilization of the egg in order to make sure the changes would be repeated in all subsequent cells of the embryo.

Scientists have been experimenting with gene editing for a long time, but the availability of the technique called CRISPR rapidly advanced the precision, flexibility and efficiency of cutting and replacing parts of the molecule chains that comprise genes.

Citing ethical concerns, the U.S. Congress made it illegal to turn genetically-edited embryos into babies. Many other countries do not have such regulations. (VOA)

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DNA Can Get Changed Due To Heavy Drinking: Study

In 2016, more than 3 million people died from the harmful use of alcohol. More than three quarters of alcohol-caused deaths were among men.

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DNA
Heavy drinking can change your DNA: Study

Are you a heavy drinker? Take note. Besides alcohol taking a toll on your health in many ways, it may also trigger a long-lasting genetic change resulting in an even greater craving for alcohol, researchers including one of Indian-origin have warned.

“We found that people who drink heavily may be changing their DNA in a way that makes them crave alcohol even more,” said Dipak K. Sarkar, Professor at Rutgers University in the US.

“This may help explain why alcoholism is such a powerful addiction, and may one day contribute to new ways to treat alcoholism or help prevent at-risk people from becoming addicted,” said Sarkar.

Hangovers might last longer than you think
Hangovers might also last longer than you think. Pixabay

For the study, researchers focused on two genes implicated in the control of drinking behaviour: PER2, which influences the body’s biological clock, and POMC, which regulates our stress-response system.

By comparing groups of moderate, binge and heavy drinkers, the team found that the two genes had changed in binge and heavy drinkers through an alcohol-influenced gene modification process called methylation, according to the findings, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

In addition, the binge and heavy drinkers also showed reductions in gene expression, or the rate at which these genes create proteins. These changes increased with greater alcohol intake.

Alcohol is linked with 7 cancers.

Also, in another experiment, the drinkers viewed stress-related, neutral or alcohol-related images. They were also shown containers of beer and subsequently tasted beer, and their motivation to drink was evaluated.

Results showed that alcohol-fuelled changes in the genes of binge and heavy drinkers were associated with a greater desire for alcohol.

Also Read: Protein Found in Spinach May Treat Alcohol Abuse, Mood Disorders

The findings may eventually help researchers identify biomarkers — measurable indicators such as proteins or modified genes — that could predict an individual’s risk for binge or heavy drinking, Sarkar noted.

In 2016, more than 3 million people died from the harmful use of alcohol. More than three quarters of alcohol-caused deaths were among men. The harmful use of alcohol also caused 5.1 per cent of disease and injuries worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. (IANS)