Scientists in London have made a breakthrough in their understanding of how one gene, known as OCT4, is crucial in the development of human embryos.
The team at the Francis Crick Institute believe that this knowledge of how OCT4 works could be used in the future to encourage stronger embryo development, reduce the risk of miscarriage and make fertility treatment more effective. However, this will probably prove controversial as it involves a 'DNA editing' procedure, and it will need to be closely monitored and regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
It is estimated that as many as 1 in 10 babies born in the UK are now the result of fertility treatment, and this is likely to increase as outcomes continue to improve. The legal complications around parentage often need careful attention, particularly when donated eggs or sperm have been used in the process.
DNA editing in human embryos reveals role of fertility 'master gene'