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Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute in London have been given regulatory approval to genetically modify fertilised human embryos. This is the first time in the world that a proper regulatory system—in this case, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)—has approved such procedures.

The experiments will be carried out on donated healthy human embryos, which will be destroyed after seven days. The researchers, at least for now, won't be allowed to implant the genetically modified embryos into a woman.

The embryos will be edited using a technique called CRISPR/Cas9, the latest and most efficient tool available to genome researchers. The CRISPR system offers researchers an easy way of "knocking out" specific sequences of DNA. They then let the cell develop as usual to see what effect the knock-out had.

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