Genetic Engineering

Department of Health written question – answered on 12th June 2015.

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Photo of George Freeman George Freeman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The use of Clustered Regular Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is one of the many new technologies emerging in the field of genetic research. The technique is rapidly becoming a standard method to introduce mutations into cell lines and laboratory animals in order to understand the cause of serious diseases such as cancer and dementia and identify new therapies.

The United Kingdom has a strong and clear regulatory framework that bans genetic modifications of the nuclear genome that can be inherited from one generation to another. The use of CRISPR is permissible in the UK in a research setting, as long as any research carried out has the appropriate approvals. In the case of human embryos, research but not treatment using these techniques would be permissible provided the UK national regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, was satisfied that the research met the criteria set out in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, as amended.

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