Tech Dec 09, 2015 09:25 PM EST

The new DNA editing tool can modify human cells but is prohibited to be used in establishing pregnancy

By Staff Writer

Scientists gathered for the International Summit in Human Gene Editing in Washington, DC this week, to discuss the new gene editing tool called CRISPR-CAS9. The new technology allows the scientist to put in, remove, and alter the DNA of almost any organism.

Scientists across the world in both private and public sectors have been using the new gene editing tool to make cells or breed animals with modified DNA for the study of diseases. CRISPR technology is far more quickly and precisely than other DNA editing tools.

According to Financial Times, many research institutions including MIT, the University of California, Berkeley, and others have been competing claims for the new  gene editing tool. However, the patent position over CRISPR remains uncertain.

The U.K. based drug company AstraZeneca announced earlier this year to use CRISPR in new drug related studies by modifying the cells representing diseases from cancer to autoimmune and inflamatory conditions.

CRISPR can also be used to modify DNA in human embryo. The scientists meeting in Washington DC highlighted a research publication by Chinese scientists who used CRISPR-CAS9 to modify a gene in human embryo, according to Nature.

Chinese scientists has used the DNA editing tool to modify the gene that causes the blood disorder thalassemia. The experiment has raised a storm of controversy over the ethics of editing human germ line.

The use of gene editing technology in human has been raising question whether it should be allowed or not. A statement released at the International Summit in Human Gene Editing did not condemn the gene editing experiments in human.

However, a host of ethical and safety issues should be resolved before the human embryos are modified for clinical applications.

According to The Globe and Mail, the meeting also stated that basic and preclinical research in human gene editing is clearly needed and should continue to improve the understanding of human embryos and germ line cells.

The scientists warned that the modified cells should not be used to establish a pregnancy.

Earlier in September, a scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London applied for permission to undertake gene editing experiments to human embryo to understand better the development of early embryo.

Altough there was no intention in the research to grow genetically modified babies, the application has raised controversy.

CRISPR technology has also been used to modify animal cells. Last month, researchers at the University of California used this tool to modify Anopheles, a mosquito that spread malaria disease, to be resistant to the parasite that causes the disease.

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