ibusinesslines.com December 09, 2018

In China the first children born with corrupted DNA

03 December 2018, 11:14 | Justin Tyler

First-ever gene-edited human babies might resist HIV, claims Chinese scientist


More than 100 scientists, a lot of them in China, have condemned as "crazy" and unethical altering human genes after a geneticist claimed he had changed the genes of twin girls to create the first gene-edited babies.

Media reports triggered Shenzhen's Southern University of Science and Technology, where He is now on unpaid leave, to release a statement Monday explaining that the organisation was "deeply shocked" and is trying to establish communications with He to clarify the extent of his research.

A USA scientist said he was involved in the work in China, but this kind of gene editing is banned in the United States.

Gene editing is banned in the United States because the DNA changes can pass to future generations and it risks harming other genes.

He's academic board said He had "seriously violated academic ethics and norms". It allows scientists to supply a needed gene or disable one on DNA.

In videos posted online this week, Associate Professor He said he used a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born this month.

He said he chose embryo gene editing for HIV because these infections are a big problem in China.

The MIT Technology Review provided further details of the gene-editing tool, CRISPR, which looks to eliminate a gene called CCR5.

Tests suggest that one twin had both copies of the altered gene and the other twin had just one altered copy. 'This would be a highly irresponsible, unethical and risky use of genome editing technology. "Moreover, if you can genetically engineer humans with traits that make them smarter, you can do the same to make them more docile", he said. On Nov. 26, the University released a statement saying that He had been on unpaid leave since February, and that they were "deeply shocked" by the news of the research.

Jiankui's team performed "gene surgery" on the embryos created from their parents' sperm and eggs, in order to protect the children from the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, which causes AIDS. This meeting will hopefully lead to a renewed consensus for tighter control of CRISPR editing in human embryos. JK spoke of his study this week in Hong Kong, notes the report, to one organizer of an global conference on gene editing and has also spoken to the AP on what his research has found so far. He then returned to his homeland China to open a laboratory at Southern University of Science and Technology.

Conference moderator Robin Lovell-Badge said He's trial was a "backward step" for the science industry, but described the babies' birth as "momentous" nonetheless.

Musunuru reviewed some of he's scientific data and said he believes the genetic edits on the embryos were incomplete, meaning the girls may not be totally immune to HIV.

"We're dealing with the operating instructions of a human being". National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins issued a statement that germline editing of embryos was "viewed nearly universally as a line that should not be crossed". Given our current level of knowledge, editing the genome of healthy embryos to attempt to confer resistance to HIV is completely unethical'. However, eradicating diseases at the source is certainly a noble mission and I for one, would love to see He's research propagated and taken up by others. The mutation introduced - deleting a portion of a gene called CCR5 - does occur naturally and does make people resistant to HIV.

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