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OHSU researchers reportedly created genetically modified human embryos

Researchers in Portland have reportedly become the first group in the U.S. to create genetically modified human embryos.

MIT Technology Review reports that an OHSU team led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov changed the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos. Mitalipov declined to comment on the results, which are pending publication.

OHSU wouldn’t confirm either, telling the Portland Business Journal: “Results of the peer-reviewed study are expected to be published soon in a scientific journal. No further information will be provided before then.”

MIT, however, is reporting that Mitalipov has broken new ground based on the number of embryos and by demonstrating it’s possible to correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases.

None of the embryos were allowed to develop more than a few days and none were ever going to be implanted into a womb, according to MIT.

According to the MIT article, “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.”

The goal of the process, called germline engineering, is to eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited diseases and prevent them from being passed on to offspring.

Critics, however, say it could lead to “designer babies” created to have only desirable traits.

No edited IVF embryos have been implanted into a womb and such efforts have been blocked by Congress, according to MIT.

Mitalipov is known for developing a mitochondrial replacement therapy where a patient’s egg nucleus is implanted into a healthy donated egg. The technique has been used in monkeys, according to Portland Business Journal.

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at marissa.harshman@columbian.com or 360-735-4546.

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