It was announced this week that scientists working in a U.S. lab have used gene editing to correct a disease-causing mutation in viable human embryos. We asked Dr. Miller to weigh in on this exciting development:
I’m still excited about medicine. I remember as a young resident hearing about the first IVF pregnancy in England. Although I immediately thought of Aldous Huxley and the book “Brave New World” I knew that the technique would offer many infertile couples the opportunity to have children.
Later in the early 90s when we started to perform intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), placing the sperm directly into the egg, I was excited, as I knew that many of my infertile patients with male factor infertility would now have the opportunity of pregnancy.
Most recently, I have once again been excited about preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) – an embryo biopsy technique that allows us to identify normal embryos in couples with genetic conditions so that they are able to have a normal, healthy child.
And now… I am even more excited than ever regarding the potential use of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technologies to modify genes and correct abnormal embryos. At present, when embryos are tested and are noted to be abnormal on genetic testing, they cannot be utilized. With gene modification, not only can we now make these embryos healthy and allow a healthy child to be born, but this child will no longer have the risk of passing along the abnormal gene. The potential ability to wipe out diseases such as diabetes, breast cancer and heart disease is incredible.
Certainly, this is not going to be offered overnight and moreover, one must note ethical concerns. We must be careful that this technology is not utilized to form a “super race.” Nevertheless, if utilized for the good of mankind, in my opinion, this is one of the most exciting medical breakthroughs.
In Good Health,