Menu

CRISPR Used in Human Embryos to Probe Gene Function

OCT4 is necessary for blastocyst formation in the human embryo, researchers report.

Sep 20, 2017
Ashley P. Taylor

ISTOCK, AWELSHLADScientists have used the gene-editing CRISPR-Cas9 system to suppress the gene encoding the protein OCT4 in experiments with human embryos. According to the results, published today (September 20) in Nature, OCT4 is essential for early embryonic development. OCT4 suppression impairs progress of the blastocyst, the ball of cells the embryo forms at about seven days, and also affects growth of the embryo’s other cell layers, the researchers found.

“Genome editing technologies—particularly CRISPR-Cas9 used in this study—are having a game-changing effect on our ability to understand the function of critical human genes,” Rob Buckle, chief science officer at Britain’s Medical Research Council, tells Reuters.

This is not the first time researchers have edited human genomes in embryos. This summer, researchers at Oregon Health and Science University fertilized eggs using sperm carrying a genetic defect, then deployed CRISPR to correct it, as The Scientist reported, following on 2015 work using CRISPR in embryos by a research team in China.

This latest experiment, led by researchers at London’s Francis Crick Institute, is the first in which scientists used genome-editing technology to investigate the function of a particular gene in human embryos, according to an institute release.

For the study, the researchers mostly used surplus embryos that had been frozen after in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments and that couples had donated to research.

Previously, OCT4 was known to be important in making cells pluripotent. To learn about its role in human embryonic development, the researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 to inactivate POU5F1, the gene encoding OCT4, in about 40 embryos. After seven days, they halted embryonic development and examined the subjects, revealing compromised blastocyst development.

“Other research methods, including studies in mice, suggested a later and more focused role for OCT4, so our results highlight the need for human embryo research,” says study author Norah Fogarty, in the Francis Crick Institute press release.

“If we knew the key genes that embryos need to develop successfully, we could improve IVF treatments and understand some causes of pregnancy failure,” adds lead author Kathy Niakan. “It may take many years to achieve such an understanding, our study is just the first step.”

April 2019

Will Car T Cells Smash Tumors?

New trials take the therapy beyond the blood

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Getting More Consistent Results by Knowing the Quality of Your Protein
Getting More Consistent Results by Knowing the Quality of Your Protein
Download this guide from NanoTemper to learn how to identify and evaluate the quality of your protein samples!
Myth Busting: The Best Way to Use Pure Water in the Lab
Myth Busting: The Best Way to Use Pure Water in the Lab
Download this white paper from ELGA LabWater to learn about the role of pure water in the laboratory and the advantages of in-house water purification!
Shimadzu's New Nexera UHPLC Series with AI and IoT Enhancements Sets Industry Standard for Intelligence, Efficiency and Design
Shimadzu's New Nexera UHPLC Series with AI and IoT Enhancements Sets Industry Standard for Intelligence, Efficiency and Design
Shimadzu Corporation announces the release of the Nexera Ultra High-Performance Liquid Chromatograph series, incorporating artificial intelligence as Analytical Intelligence, allowing systems to detect and resolve issues automatically. The Nexera series makes lab management simple by integrating IoT and device networking, enabling users to easily review instrument status, optimize resource allocation, and achieve higher throughput.
IDT lowers genomic barriers with powerful rhAmpSeq™ targeted sequencing system
IDT lowers genomic barriers with powerful rhAmpSeq™ targeted sequencing system
Increasing accuracy and reducing cost barriers, IDT’s innovative system delivers simple and cost-effective amplicon sequencing