London: Scientists in Britain have applied for permission to genetically modify human embryos as part of a research project that may shed light onto the earliest stages of human development and causes leading to miscarriage.
Kathy Niakan, a stem cell scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, has requested UK government's fertility regulator?for a licence to perform a so-called genome editing on human embryos.
The research could see the first genetically modified embryos in Britain created within months.
Donated by couples with a surplus after IVF treatment, the embryos would be used for basic research only.
They cannot legally be studied for more than two weeks or implanted into women to achieve a pregnancy.
"The knowledge we acquire will be very important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops, and this will inform our understanding of the causes of miscarriage. It is not a slippery slope [towards designer babies] because the UK has very tight regulation in this area," Niakan told the Guardian.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has yet to review her application, but is expected to grant a licence under existing laws that permit experiments on embryos provided they are destroyed within 14 days.
In Britain, research on embryos can only go ahead under a licence from an HFEA panel that deems the experiments to be justified.