Embryo editing breakthrough 

3rd August 2017

A new landmark study focused on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has suggested that scientists could soon edit out genetic mutations to prevent babies being born with diseases

Scientists in the US reached a new breakthrough by successfully altering DNA in defective embryos so they were no longer programmed to develop heart failure. This is the first time the powerful gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 has been used to fix a mutation responsible for a common inherited disease.

In the study, teams from Oregon Health and Science University and the Institute of Basic Science in South Korea injected sperm carrying the gene for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a common heart disease, into healthy eggs. They then applied the genome editing technique of CRISPR to successfully eliminate the faulty gene. This could mean that the development could open the door to banishing thousands of hereditary disorders for good. Others, however, believe it threatens to flare up fresh debate over the morality of gene-editing.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy affects 1 in 500 people. Some people have few symptoms while others are severely affected and it usually runs in families. 

Joel Rose, Cardiomyopathy UK chief executive said: 'This is a major step forward which raises the possibility of preventing the inheritance of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in the next and future generations in families. It's an early finding and a lot more research is required’.