In 2017, a team of researchers led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a geneticist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, reported that human embryos carrying a mutation could be coaxed into this process without a synthetic template. The researchers generated embryos from a union between two cells: a sperm carrying a mutation that can make it harder for the heart to pump blood, and an egg with a healthy version of the gene. Dr. Mitalipov and his team used Crispr-Cas9 to cut the broken copy of the gene to see if the intact version would guide its repair. They reported the experiment a success and published it in the journal Nature.
“In principle, this could be a way to correct a mutation in a human embryo” that has only one broken copy of a gene, Dr. Egli said.
But the new findings could cast some doubt on the 2017 work, Dr. Egli added.
The researchers of the Cell study focused on a different mutation — one that causes hereditary blindness and affects a different part of the genome — but adopted a similar setup. Using donated sperm containing a mutation in a gene called EYS, they fertilized eggs that