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posted by martyb on Thursday July 27, @03:35PM   Printer-friendly
from the baby-steps dept.

U.S. scientists have genetically modified human embyros using CRISPR and have apparently avoided the worst of the off-target effects that have plagued previous efforts. The results are unpublished and the team is not commenting yet:

The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon, Technology Review has learned.

The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR, according to people familiar with the scientific results.

Until now, American scientists have watched with a combination of awe, envy, and some alarm as scientists elsewhere were first to explore the controversial practice. To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China.

Now Mitalipov is believed to have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases.

Although none of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days—and there was never any intention of implanting them into a womb—the experiments are a milestone on what may prove to be an inevitable journey toward the birth of the first genetically modified humans.

Also at STAT News.

Previously: Chinese Scientists Have Genetically Modified Human Embryos
NIH Won't Fund Human Germline Modification
Group of Scientists and Bioethicists Back Genetic Modification of Human Embryos
The International Summit on Human Gene Editing
UK Scientist Makes the Case for Editing Human Embryos
Second Chinese Team Reports Gene Editing in Human Embryos
Scientists Keep Human Embryos Alive Longer Outside of the Womb
Francis Collins Retains Position as Director of the National Institutes of Health


Original Submission

Related Stories

Chinese Scientists Have Genetically Modified Human Embryos 27 comments

A team of researchers led by Junjiu Huang at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou have reported human germline modification using CRISPR:

In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted — rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month about the ethical implications of such work.

In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using 'non-viable' embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications.

[...] A Chinese source familiar with developments in the field said that at least four groups in China are pursuing gene editing in human embryos.

While some embryos were successfully edited, the use of CRISPR/Cas9 was not nearly as reliable as desired:

The team injected 86 embryos and then waited 48 hours, enough time for the CRISPR/Cas9 system and the molecules that replace the missing DNA to act — and for the embryos to grow to about eight cells each. Of the 71 embryos that survived, 54 were genetically tested. This revealed that just 28 were successfully spliced, and that only a fraction of those contained the replacement genetic material. "If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100%," Huang says. "That's why we stopped. We still think it's too immature."

NIH Won't Fund Human Germline Modification 21 comments

A week after a Chinese team reported semi-successful modification of human embryos, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, has said in a statement that his agency will not fund any research involving human germline modification:

The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes has been debated over many years from many different perspectives, and has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed. Advances in technology have given us an elegant new way of carrying out genome editing, but the strong arguments against engaging in this activity remain. These include the serious and unquantifiable safety issues, ethical issues presented by altering the germline in a way that affects the next generation without their consent, and a current lack of compelling medical applications justifying the use of CRISPR/Cas9 in embryos.

Practically, there are multiple existing legislative and regulatory prohibitions against this kind of work. The Dickey-Wicker amendment prohibits the use of appropriated funds for the creation of human embryos for research purposes or for research in which human embryos are destroyed (H.R. 2880, Sec. 128). Furthermore, the NIH Guidelines state that the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, "...will not at present entertain proposals for germ line alteration". It is also important to note the role of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in this arena, which applies not only to federally funded research, but to any research in the U.S. The Public Health Service Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act give the FDA the authority to regulate cell and gene therapy products as biological products and/or drugs, which would include oversight of human germline modification. During development, biological products may be used in humans only if an investigational new drug application is in effect (21 CFR Part 312).

However, some scientists aren't joining the chorus of "universal" criticism:

George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, disagrees that the technology is so immature. He says that the researchers did not use the most up-to-date CRISPR/Cas9 methods and that many of the researchers' problems could have been avoided or lessened if they had.

Although researchers agree that a moratorium on clinical applications is needed while the ethical and safety concerns of human-embryo editing are worked out, many see no problem with the type of research that Huang's team did, in part because the embryos could not have led to a live birth. "It's no worse than what happens in IVF all the time, which is that non-viable embryos are discarded," says John Harris, a bioethicist at the University of Manchester, UK. "I don't see any justification for a moratorium on research," he adds. Church, meanwhile, notes that many of the earliest experiments with CRISPR/Cas9 were developed in human induced pluripotent stem cells, adult cells that have been reprogrammed to have the ability to turn into any cell type, including sperm and eggs. He questions whether Huang's experiments are any more intrinsically problematic.

Group of Scientists and Bioethicists Back Genetic Modification of Human Embryos 25 comments

Following a September 3-4 meeting in Manchester, England, the Hinxton Group, "a global network of stem cell researchers, bioethicists, and experts on policy and scientific publishing" has published a statement backing the genetic modification of human embryos, with caveats:

It is "essential" that the genetic modification of human embryos is allowed, says a group of scientists, ethicists and policy experts. A Hinxton Group report says editing the genetic code of early stage embryos is of "tremendous value" to research. It adds although GM babies should not be allowed to be born at the moment, it may be "morally acceptable" under some circumstances in the future. The US refuses to fund research involving the gene editing of embryos. The global Hinxton Group met in response to the phenomenal advances taking place in the field of genetics.

From the statement:

Genome editing has tremendous value as a tool to address fundamental questions of human and non-human animal biology and their similarities and differences. There are at least four categories of basic research involving genome editing technology that can be distinguished: 1) research to understand and improve the technique of genome editing itself; 2) genome editing used as a tool to address fundamental questions of human and non-human animal biology; 3) research to generate preliminary data for the development of human somatic applications; and 4) research to inform the plausibility of developing safe human reproductive applications. These distinctions are important to make clear that, even if one opposes human genome editing for clinical reproductive purposes, there is important research to be done that does not serve that end. That said, we appreciate that there are even categories of basic research involving this technology that some may find morally troubling. Nevertheless, it is our conviction that concerns about human genome editing for clinical reproductive purposes should not halt or hamper application to scientifically defensible basic research.

BBC has this beginner's guide to the designer baby debate.

Related:

The Rapid Rise of CRISPR
NIH Won't Fund Human Germline Modification
Chinese Scientists Have Genetically Modified Human Embryos
UK Approves Three-Person IVF Babies


Original Submission

The International Summit on Human Gene Editing 19 comments

George Church is one of the biologists who attended the International Summit on Human Gene Editing, held from December 1-3 in Washington D.C. He believes that human aging could be cured in the near future. From the Washington Post:

Church thinks that one of the ailments he can cure is aging. When I met him early this year, in his laboratory at Harvard Medical School, where he is professor of genetics, he expressed confidence that in just five or six years he will be able to reverse the aging process in human beings. "A scenario is, everyone takes gene therapy — not just curing rare diseases like cystic fibrosis, but diseases that everyone has, like aging," he said. He noted that mice die after 2.5 years but bowhead whales can live to be 180 or 200.

So on Tuesday, I asked him if he was still on track to reversing the aging process in the next five years or so. He said yes — and that it's already happening in mice in the laboratory. The best way to predict the future, he said, is to predict things that have already happened.

For most of us lay people, what's striking here is not the way that scientists fiddle with the code of life but the mere fact that they do it at all. Awed though we may be by the skills of the experimenters, we naturally question whether this is a good idea. That's the whole point of the gene-editing summit: To find a path forward that fosters innovation but avoids crossing into ethically dubious territory. Gene-editing could be a tool for eliminating heritable diseases. But it just as easily could be used for purely cosmetic enhancements, or for something smacking of eugenics. The gravest concern is that CRISPR enables germline edits that get passed on to future generations. You're permanently changing the human species when you do that. Who calls the shots here?

Contrast Church's position with that of another biotech heavyweight, Craig Venter. Venter is focused on a "higher-quality life span" and recently said that billionaires extending their own lifespans would be "socially irresponsible". FightAging has additional discussion of the Washington Post article.

[More after the break.]

UK Scientist Makes the Case for Editing Human Embryos 20 comments

Dr. Kathy Niakan from the Francis Crick Institute is seeking approval from the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in order to genetically modify human embryos:

A scientist has been making her case to be the first in the UK to be allowed to genetically modify human embryos. Dr Kathy Niakan said the experiments would provide a deeper understanding of the earliest moments of human life and could reduce miscarriages. The regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), will consider her application on Thursday. If Dr Niakan is given approval then the first such embryos could be created by the summer.

[...] Dr Niakan, from the Francis Crick Institute, said: "We would really like to understand the genes needed for a human embryo to develop successfully into a healthy baby. The reason why it is so important is because miscarriages and infertility are extremely common, but they're not very well understood."

Of 100 fertilised eggs, fewer than 50 reach the blastocyst stage, 25 implant into the womb and only 13 develop beyond three months. She says that understanding what is supposed to happen and what can go wrong could improve IVF. "We believe that this research could really lead to improvements in infertility treatment and ultimately provide us with a deeper understanding of the earliest stages of human life."

However, she says the only way to do this is to edit human embryos. Many of the genes which become active in the week after fertilisation are unique to humans, so they cannot be studied in animal experiments. "The only way we can understand human biology at this early stage is by further studying human embryos directly," Dr Niakan said. Her intention is to use one of the most exciting recent scientific breakthroughs - Crispr gene editing - to turn off genes at the single-cell stage and see what happens. [...] She aims to start with the gene Oct4 which appears to have a crucial role.

Related: UK Approves Three-Person IVF Babies
The Rapid Rise of CRISPR
Group of Scientists and Bioethicists Back Genetic Modification of Human Embryos


Original Submission

Second Chinese Team Reports Gene Editing in Human Embryos 32 comments

Second Paper to Show Human Embryo Editing

Second Chinese team reports gene editing in human embryos

Researchers in China have reported editing the genes of human embryos to try to make them resistant to HIV infection. Their paper — which used CRISPR-editing tools in non-viable embryos that were destroyed after three days — is only the second published claim of gene editing in human embryos.

The mutation that was introduced is the naturally occurring variant in the CCR5 gene seen in some people resistant to AIDS progression.

Introducing precise genetic modifications into human 3PN embryos by CRISPR/Cas-mediated genome editing (DOI: 10.1007/s10815-016-0710-8)

Chinese Team Uses CRISPR to Genetically Modify Human Embryo

Chinese team uses CRISPR to genetically modify human embryo

In this latest effort, the Chinese team reports that they obtained 213 fertilized eggs from a fertility clinic, which had been deemed unsuitable for in vitro therapy. The women who had donated the eggs all gave permission for the embryos to be used for genetic research, on condition that the embryos would not be allowed to mature into a human being. The team used the CRISPR technique to edit genes, adding a mutation that causes damage to an immune cell gene called CCR5—such cells that are damaged naturally have been found to lead to HIV resistance. Thus the point of the research was to learn more about the possibility of producing human babies that would be immune to HIV. The team reports that just 4 out of 26 of the embryos that were edited were modified successfully—some still contained genes that had not been modified, and others had resulted in unexpected gene mutations. All of the embryos were destroyed after three days. Due to the results, it is not clear what has been learned from the experiments, except that some groups, particularly in China, are willing to conduct such research despite international condemnation.


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

Scientists Keep Human Embryos Alive Longer Outside of the Womb 13 comments

Scientists have developed a way to keep embyros alive outside of a womb for days longer than before, by using a mix of amino acids, hormones, and growth factors:

Zernicka-Goetz says being able to go past the previous limit is "extremely important" from a scientific point of view. That's because the seventh day of development is the time when the human embryo becomes embedded within the body of the mother — when it becomes implanted in the womb. Scientists had thought embryos could only keep developing if they were safely in the womb and receiving instructions from the mother's body.

But the embryos in the studies implanted in the dish like they they would in the womb. Then they started organizing themselves into the very early stages of different complex organs and tissues and structures in the body, the researchers report.

A commentary accompanying the research urges regulators to revisit the "14-day rule":

In principle, these two lines of research could lead to scientists being able to study all aspects of early human development with unprecedented precision. Yet these advances also put human developmental biology on a collision course with the '14-day rule' — a legal and regulatory line in the sand that has for decades limited in vitro human-embryo research to the period before the 'primitive streak' appears. This is a faint band of cells marking the beginning of an embryo's head-to-tail axis. The 14-day rule has been effective for permitting embryo research within strict constraints — partly because it has been technologically challenging for scientists to break it. Now that the culturing of human embryos beyond 14 days seems feasible, more clarity as to how the rule applies to different types of embryo research in different jurisdictions is crucial. Moreover, in light of the evolving science and its potential benefits, it is important that regulators and concerned citizens reflect on the nature of the restriction and re-evaluate its pros and cons.

Self-organization of the in vitro attached human embryo (DOI: 10.1038/nature17948)

Self-organization of the human embryo in the absence of maternal tissues (DOI: 10.1038/ncb3347)


Original Submission

Francis Collins Retains Position as Director of the National Institutes of Health 6 comments

Francis Collins will remain the director of the National Institutes of Health, for now:

Ending weeks of speculation, President-elect Donald Trump has asked National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins to remain in his position. It is not clear for how long. "We just learned that Dr. Collins has been held over by the Trump administration," an NIH spokesperson said in a statement. "We have no additional details at this time."

Collins, a geneticist who has headed the $32 billion NIH for the past 8 years, has been campaigning to keep his job and met with Trump last week. On Wednesday, he told a reporter at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he still didn't know what his fate would be. But although Collins had the support of key Republicans in Congress, he has been one of several candidates for the NIH post, including Representative Andy Harris (R–MD).

Related: NIH Won't Fund Human Germline Modification
Group of Scientists and Bioethicists Back Genetic Modification of Human Embryos
Human-Animal Chimeras are Gestating on U.S. Research Farms
NIH Plans To Lift Ban On Research Funds For Human-Animal Chimera Embryos
Neuroscientists Stand Up for Basic Cell Biology Research
Major Biomedical Research Funding Bill Sails Through US House


Original Submission

U.S. Human Embryo Editing Study Published 21 comments

The human embryo editing study first reported by MIT Technology Review last week has been published in Nature. Scientists led by the Oregon Health & Science University's Shoukhrat Mitalipov edited human embryos to remove the MYBPC3 mutation associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy:

The experiment corrected the defect in nearly two-thirds of several dozen embryos, without causing potentially dangerous mutations elsewhere in the DNA.

None of the embryos were used to try to create a baby. But if future experiments confirm the techniques are safe and effective, the scientists say the same approach could be used to prevent a long list of inheritable diseases. "Potentially, we're talking about thousands of genes and thousands of patients," says Paula Amato, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. She was a member of the scientific team from the U.S., China and South Korea.

[...] Amato and others stress that their work is aimed at preventing terrible diseases, not creating genetically enhanced people. And they note that much more research is needed to confirm the technique is safe and effective before anyone tries to make a baby this way. But scientists hoping to continue the work in the U.S. face many regulatory obstacles. The National Institutes of Health will not fund any research involving human embryos (the new work was funded by Oregon Health & Science University). And the Food and Drug Administration is prohibited by Congress from considering any experiments that involve genetically modified human embryos.

Nevertheless, the researchers say they're hopeful about continuing the work, perhaps in Britain. The United Kingdom has permitted genetic experiments involving human embryos forbidden in the United States. "If other countries would be interested, we would be happy to work with their regulatory bodies," says Shoukhrat Mitalipov, director of the Oregon Health & Science University's Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy.

Also at NYT, MIT, BBC, Science Magazine, and Scientific American.

Correction of a pathogenic gene mutation in human embryos (open, DOI: 10.1038/nature23305) (DX)

Previously: First Known Attempt at Genetically Modifying Human Embryos in the U.S. is an Apparent Success


Original Submission

Scientists Question Observations of the First U.S. Human Embryo Editing Study 7 comments

Skepticism surfaces over CRISPR human embryo editing claims

When the first U.S. team to edit human embryos with CRISPR revealed their success earlier this month, the field reeled with the possibility that the gene-editing technique might soon produce children free of their parents' genetic defects. But the way CRISPR repaired the paternal mutation targeted in the embryos was also a surprise. Instead of replacing the gene defect with strands of DNA that the researchers inserted, the embryos appeared to use the mother's healthy gene as a template for repairing the cut made by CRISPR's enzyme.

But such a feat has not been observed in previous CRISPR experiments, and some scientists are now questioning whether the repairs really happened that way. In a paper published online this week on the preprint server bioRxiv, a group of six geneticists, developmental biologists, and stem cell researchers offers alternative explanations for the results. And uncertainty about exactly how the embryos' DNA changed after editing leaves many questions about the technique's safety, they argue. (The authors declined to discuss the paper while it's being reviewed for publication.)

Embryologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, who led the now-disputed experiments, released a statement saying that his team stands by its explanation. "We based our finding and conclusions on careful experimental design involving hundreds of human embryos," it says.

[...] Although the researchers inserted short strands of DNA as templates for repair, the cells didn't seem to take them up; those specific sequences were absent from the embryos. The cells must have relied instead on the nonmutated sequence in the egg donor's DNA when making the repairs, the team concluded.

The bioRxiv response, led by developmental biologist Maria Jasin of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and Columbia University stem cell biologist Dieter Egli, challenges that interpretation. The authors, which also include well-known CRISPR researcher and Harvard University geneticist George Church, say that the Nature paper goes against conventional wisdom about how embryos are organized early in development. Right after an egg is fertilized, the DNA from the sperm and the egg aren't believed to be in close enough proximity to interact or share genes, they explain.

Previously: First Known Attempt at Genetically Modifying Human Embryos in the U.S. is an Apparent Success
U.S. Human Embryo Editing Study Published

Study in question: Correction of a pathogenic gene mutation in human embryos (open, DOI: 10.1038/nature23305) (DX)


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @03:52PM (16 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @03:52PM (#545228)

    If they don't have some kind of detailed report to look at it is pointless to believe anything they are saying. Usually those reports aren't even very good anyway, but there is literally nothing to see here.

    • (Score: 2) by jimtheowl on Thursday July 27, @04:10PM (14 children)

      by jimtheowl (5929) on Thursday July 27, @04:10PM (#545242)
      Very much like every AC first post on this site.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @04:37PM (13 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @04:37PM (#545258)

        A person familiar with the research says “many tens” of human IVF embryos were created for the experiment using the donated sperm of men carrying inherited disease mutations. Embryos at this stage are tiny clumps of cells invisible to the naked eye.

        Based on this phrasing, they probably used between 50 and 100 embryos consisting of 4-16 cells each. This gives a range of 200-1600 total exposed cells. How many "successful modifications" were there? Knowing mutation rates, I'd naively expect 0-16 of these cells to spontaneously gain/have a mutation at the site they were considering in the case of NEHJ (when they only see any random mutation at a given site).

        Actually, is this about NEHJ or HDR (where they insert exogenous DNA)? Because that makes a huge difference. Why should we even think about this without having such basic information?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @05:07PM (12 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @05:07PM (#545275)

          Knowing mutation rates, I'd naively expect 0-16 of these cells to spontaneously gain/have a mutation at the site they were considering in the case of NEHJ (when they only see any random mutation at a given site).

          I'd expect so close to 0 spontaneous mutations at a specific region, that I wouldn't even say 0-1. For NHEJ to occur, you need a DNA break.

          Multiply the likelihood of a break at the ROI by the probability of error at the specific site and the chance of that error being the "correct" one.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @05:34PM (2 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @05:34PM (#545284)

            Table S2 (~0.15%):
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26121415 [nih.gov]

            Tables S5, S12 (~0.1%):
            http://www.nature.com/nchembio/journal/v10/n8/abs/nchembio.1550.html#supplementary-information [nature.com]

            Figure S1 (~1%):
            http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v33/n11/full/nbt.3389.html#supplementary-information [nature.com]

            Figure S5 (~1%):
            http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/suppl/2015/08/11/1.7.e1500454.DC1 [sciencemag.org]

            Similar values are found in every paper that reports on spontaneous mutation rates.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @06:03PM (1 child)

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @06:03PM (#545299)

              First link:

              K562 cells (a triploid leukemic cell line) were electroporated with Cas9 plasmids (mock) - doesn't sound spontaneous to me. Their results do show that guide RNA can greatly enhance indel frequency at a specific region.

              https://www.atcc.org/products/all/CCL-243.aspx [atcc.org]

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @05:59PM (8 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @05:59PM (#545294)

            Heres another:
            Fig 3(1-2%)
            "Although rare (~1–2%), edits were detected with Cas9-only control treatment, including
            at the predicted CXCR4 cut site, potentially indicating trace amounts of experimental contamination of the Cas9 RNPs.""
            http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/07/21/1512503112.abstract [pnas.org]

            There are more I've seen, just not finding them at the moment...

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @06:05PM (7 children)

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @06:05PM (#545303)

              edits were detected with Cas9-only control treatment

              Alright, I guess we have different definitions of spontaneous.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @06:42PM (6 children)

                by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @06:42PM (#545335)

                I'm not sure what you are trying to insinuate. Of course mutation rates depend on cell line and conditions. By your definition of "spontaneous" there would be no interference at all (changing media, etc) and these cells would all just die.

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @07:06PM (5 children)

                  by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @07:06PM (#545347)

                  I thought you meant spontaneous mutations arising from the normal error rate in mammalian cells (~10^-10 per cell division). Your definition seems to be what I'd call Cas9-induced, independent of guide RNA.

                  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2761330/ [nih.gov]

                  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @09:24PM (4 children)

                    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @09:24PM (#545448)

                    That paper gives two estimates (5e-5 and 7e-9) in fig 2 but say 10^-10 in the intro. Then the drake paper estimates 2e-8 per generation and assumes 400(!) divisions between zygote and sperm, so end up with 5e-11. They cite Drost and Lee 1995 for that 400 generations number, but that paper estimate mutations per division to be 1e^-8 (fig 1). I have seen 1e-8 mutations/cell/division as the more generally cited number, but ok.

                    Lets consider starting with a single cell is 400 divisions removed from its ancestor (the fertilized egg). You would have 2^400 = 2.6e120 cells produced during those 30 years (until the sperm fertilizes an egg). Apparently a sperm is ~1e-14 kg, while an average human cell is ~1e-12 kg.[1] Therefore 2.6e106 to 2.6e108 kg worth of human cells need to be produced over the course of 30 years for this scheme to work. The mass of the observable universe is estimated at 1e52 kg.[1] Why nature use such an insane scheme when it is totally unnecessary?[2]

                    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_%28mass%29 [wikipedia.org]
                    [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25459141 [nih.gov]

                    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @10:13PM

                      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @10:13PM (#545483)

                      Sorry, that should be "1e-8 mutations/bp/division"

                    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @10:52PM (2 children)

                      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @10:52PM (#545502)

                      unless the orderly progression of the hierarchy is disturbed by inflammation, ulceration or trauma

                      That is a very big "unless" when used in the context of cancer.

                      Figure 2 is looking at adult mouse tissue (some of which are heavily exposed to the external environment or have a very different internal environment), so it makes sense that the estimates exceed the ideal error rate of DNA polymerase and the error correction machinery of the cell.

                      The paper probably isn't the best for an estimate, but I came across it while I was looking for the maximum tolerated mutation rate for mammals. If you're interested: It seems that ~100x is tolerated (though the mice die around 3 months compared to 27), while 10000X is embryonically lethal (some random citation that I came across) for mice.

                      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 28, @03:46AM (1 child)

                        by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 28, @03:46AM (#545590)

                        He goes into carcinogenesis later, and discusses how the "multi-stage" theory requires much higher mutation rates. If you get epidemiological data from seer and plot age specific incidence, there is a "turnover" for many cancers where they become less common. This also requires many more divisions and/or much higher mutation rates than usually assumed.

                        Anyway, the best would be if they take a sample of cells before doing any of this "gene modification", and see how many are "modified", then send the rest on to be treated, but that doesn't seem to be a thing. So all we have are their controls. Apparently when someone publishes a paper about this, its is usually 0.1% to 1% are mutated at the target site either before anything happens or due to environmental factors. I couldn't find it earlier, but there is a paper that reports for one situation it was as high as 10%, and low as .001% for another.

                        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 28, @11:55AM

                          by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 28, @11:55AM (#545724)

                          take a sample of cells before doing any of this "gene modification", and see how many are "modified", then send the rest on to be treated, but that doesn't seem to be a thing

                          Yes, I've always found it frustrating that lots of studies skip controls or have few biological and technical replicates. This is more true for expensive techniques (whole genome/transcriptions, ChIP-seq, IP-MS, micro-array, animal models, etc.) as there is little incentive to produce good quality data at the expense of novel, positive data.

                          was as high as 10%, and low as .001% for another

                          Since most quantifications in biology are relative and the systems and techniques can be extremely noisy, most baseline numbers reflect the noise and error instead of being an accurate value (excepting studies that set out to specifically determine this).

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday July 27, @07:47PM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday July 27, @07:47PM (#545383) Journal

      The answer is no.

      Obviously, someone leaked the existence of this research. It is big news regardless of whether it worked or not.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Thursday July 27, @04:22PM (2 children)

    by kaszz (4211) on Thursday July 27, @04:22PM (#545246) Journal

    Official embryos that are not implanted into a womb. And unofficial that are.

    Now we just need big muscles, slight psychopathy, order eager and aggressive mods. //DoD

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday July 27, @04:32PM (1 child)

      by DannyB (5839) on Thursday July 27, @04:32PM (#545254)

      slight psychopathy

      Strong psychopathy for those destined for management or higher position. It has been correlated to CEOs. But probably applies to lesser management positions within an organization.

      big muscles

      Bigger other endowments.

      Things you left out that the future will want:
      * ability to work long hours without complaining
      * loyalty to the Dear Leader
      * not asking too many questions

      • (Score: 2, Funny) by realDonaldTrump on Thursday July 27, @05:24PM

        by realDonaldTrump (6614) Subscriber Badge on Thursday July 27, @05:24PM (#545281) Homepage Journal

        Don't make rocket scientists, make really beautiful women. Make them like Marla: nice tits, no brains. A woman who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10. Would you go out with Marcia Cross or would you turn gay, DannyB? Make them like Princess Diana. She had the height, she had the beauty, she had the skin. I'd do her. If she hadn't been dead so long, I'd definitely do her. Thank you. 🇺🇸

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by DannyB on Thursday July 27, @04:34PM (5 children)

    by DannyB (5839) on Thursday July 27, @04:34PM (#545256)

    What I really want to know when it comes to gene editing: vi or emacs

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @04:47PM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @04:47PM (#545262)

      I do all my genome editing with sed, you insensitive clod!

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @05:12PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, @05:12PM (#545277)

        Lazy punks, if you aren't manually coding the bits you're a slacker just like your old man!

        • (Score: 2) by Unixnut on Thursday July 27, @06:06PM (2 children)

          by Unixnut (5779) on Thursday July 27, @06:06PM (#545306)

          Nah, real men just bone the woman directly, and the DNA arranges itself. :-)

          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday July 28, @01:09PM (1 child)

            by DannyB (5839) on Friday July 28, @01:09PM (#545740)

            If you are up on current news, you would know sperm counts are dropping. Thus it would take more boning sessions in order to achieve conception. Due to the increased effort, it is simply not worth doing. So no more boning women.

            • (Score: 2) by Unixnut on Friday July 28, @01:33PM

              by Unixnut (5779) on Friday July 28, @01:33PM (#545750)

              > Thus it would take more boning sessions in order to achieve conception. Due to the increased effort, it is simply not worth doing. So no more boning women.

              I can't vouch for others, but I very much enjoy boning women. Having more boning sessions is a-ok with me! The increased effort just means I get fitter from all the exercise. Indeed I have boned women where there was no chance at all of pregnancy, but still found it very moreish!

              Also, sperm counts are dropping in "feminised societies", the rest of the world (euphemistically named as " high machismo" in TFA ) are more than willing and able to take up the slack. Assuming we even have to keep the accelerated pace of human population growth, which I don't think is necessary.

  • (Score: 2) by Oakenshield on Thursday July 27, @04:52PM

    by Oakenshield (4900) on Thursday July 27, @04:52PM (#545265)

    [...] the experiments are a milestone on what may prove to be an inevitable journey toward the birth of the first genetically modified humans.

    Khaaaaaaaaaaaan!

  • (Score: 0, Redundant) by nnet on Thursday July 27, @07:17PM

    by nnet (5716) on Thursday July 27, @07:17PM (#545358)

    Kha-a-a-a-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaan

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