The announcement that a Chinese team had altered the genetics of a human embryo for the first time has ignited a firestorm of controversy around the world and renewed recent calls for a moratorium on any attempt to establish a pregnancy with such an engineered embryo. But it has also underscored that while scientists are united in their opposition to any clinical application of such embryo manipulation, they are split on the value of basic research that involves genetically modifying human embryos.
In China itself, where the precedent-setting research is big news and some in the public have expressed concern on the Internet about the embryo experiments, "most scientists are more positive," says Guo-Qiang Chen, a microbiologist at Tsinghua University in Beijing. "My personal opinion is that as long as they can control the consequences they should continue this work.”
That viewed is echoed by many outside of China as well. “I personally would defend the fundamental scientific value of research into gene editing” in human embryos, in part to explore the risks of any potential clinical use, Harvard Medical School stem cell biologist George Daley tells Science.Continue Reading »