Last year, Kathy Niakan, a developmental biologist at the Francis Crick Institute, was the first UK scientist to be given the go-ahead by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to use genome-editing techniques on human embryos. Kathy’s research aims to understand aspects of the basic biology of early human embryo development and the role of specific genes.
Now, Kathy and a team of researchers at the Francis Crick Institute are publishing, in Nature, the results of their study which used the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technique to study the role of the OCT4 gene in human embryos. The molecular mechanism of this early developmental period is poorly understood so a successful technique to study this represents proof of concept that CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing can be used to evaluate gene function in early human development. This research provides a framework for future study, to understand which genes play a role and how, and in time could lead to improvements and advances in IVF treatment.
A Roundup accompanied this briefing
Dr Kathy Niakan, Group Leader, Human Embryo and Stem Cell Laboratory, The Francis Crick Institute
Dr James Turner, Group Leader, Sex Chromosome Biology Laboratory, The Francis Crick Institute
Dr Norah Fogarty, Postdoctoral Fellow, Human Embryo and Stem Cell Laboratory, The Francis Crick Institute
Dr Kay Elder, Senior Research Scientist, Bourn Hall Clinic