genetics

There are new concerns about the world's first genetically modified babies.

It appears that the genetic variation a Chinese scientist was trying to re-create when he edited twin girls' DNA may be more harmful than helpful to health overall, according to a study published Monday. The study, in Nature Medicine, involves the DNA of more than 400,000 people.

A group of prominent scientists and bioethicists is calling for a global moratorium on any new attempts to bring gene-edited babies into the world.

"We call for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing — that is, changing heritable DNA (in sperm, eggs or embryos) to make genetically modified children," the 18 scientists and bioethicists from seven countries write in an article published Wednesday by the journal Nature.

A scientist in New York is conducting experiments designed to modify DNA in human embryos as a step toward someday preventing inherited diseases, NPR has learned.

For now, the work is confined to a laboratory. But the research, if successful, would mark another step toward turning CRISPR, a powerful form of gene editing, into a tool for medical treatment.

China's government ordered a halt Thursday to work by a medical team that claimed to have helped make the world's first gene-edited babies, as a group of leading scientists declared that it's still too soon to try to make permanent changes to DNA that can be inherited by future generations.

A Chinese scientist's claims that he created the world's first gene-edited babies is a "deeply disturbing" and "irresponsible" violation of international scientific norms, according to a formal conclusion issued Thursday by organizers of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong.

But the summit rejected calls for a blanket moratorium on such research, saying that the work could eventually lead to new ways to prevent a long list of serious genetic diseases.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:52 a.m. to add information about an ethics committee investigation into the DNA-editing experiment.

For the first time, a scientist claims to have used a powerful new gene-editing technique to create genetically modified human babies.

Does A Mom’s Stress Affect Her Offspring For Generations?

Jul 24, 2018
Courtesy of Julie Groleau

After Hurricane Harvey, researchers in Houston started looking for ways to stop stress from affecting the genes of developing babies. They’ve been recruiting women who were pregnant during or right after the storm. They’re testing whether a writing exercise could help.

It’s part of a body of research looking at stress brought on by natural disasters, starting with an ice storm in Canada.

This week, we're tackling questions from readers who are worried about health insurance roadblocks in the face of a serious illness or medical crisis.

Q: I think genetic testing could be a great tool for physicians. My fear is what the insurance industry will do with the information, especially in today's political climate. Could they decide that you have a pre-existing condition and charge a higher rate, or not cover you at all?

Chinese researchers have finally figured out how to clone a primate, using the same technique Scottish researchers devised to clone the first mammal, Dolly the sheep, in the mid-1990s.

Depending on whom you ask, finding out whether your genes make you a better athlete or give you healthier skin may be as easy as swabbing your cheeks for a DNA test on your way into a football game. But others say these "wellness" tests marketed directly to consumers are modern snake oil — worthless, or even misleading.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration gave a boost to direct-to-consumer genetic testing when it announced plans to streamline its approval process.

People who have obsessive-compulsive disorder can get trapped inside a thought. It repeats itself, like a stuck song. Did I lock the door? Is that doorknob clean enough to touch? I better wash my hands again — and again.

The biology underpinning this loop remains murky to scientists, but scientists are beginning to sniff out potential genetic factors behind OCD and shed light on how the disorder affects the brain.