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Human gene editing sounds like a big deal. Is it?

These genetic tools pose fraught biological and ethical questions—but how much call for them is there anyway?

By Philip Ball  

Photo: TNS/SIPA USA/PA Images

Gene editing of human embryos for reproductive purposes—a medical technology often said to promise (or threaten) “designer babies”—is more or less upon us already. It has arrived far sooner than many researchers imagined, and sooner than many wanted. And recent developments show that there may be more just around the corner.

To edit the genome of an embryo, biochemical tools snip out a section of its DNA (typically a gene or part thereof) before implantation, and an altered segment is inserted in its place. This…

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