Wednesday, 19 June, 2019


Rogue Chinese scientist made "foolish" choice in gene-edited babies

He Jiankui's Gene Edited Babies May Have a Lower Life Expectancy Because of Chinese Scientist's Experiment World's first gene-edited babies 'more likely' to die young
Patty Aguilar | 06 June, 2019, 07:24

The study, in Nature Medicine, involves the DNA of more than 400,000 people.

"What we found is that they had significantly increased mortality", said Rasmus Nielsen, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study.

In November 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced the birth of the world's first gene edited babies-twin girls called Lulu and Nana.

Prof He became targeting a gene known as CCR5.

The topic is CCR5 has a bigger neutral in the physique than moral making of us at probability of HIV. We could actually be creating uncontrollable and incurable diseases far down into the future, because we don't yet know all the effects of these gene changes. The question is: Is it overall beneficial or detrimental to have this mutation?

After He's experiment became public, Nielsen and Wei, who study current genetic variation to understand the origin of human, animal and plant traits, chose to investigate the effect of the CCR5-∆32 mutation using data from UK Biobank.

Not everyone who carried the mutations in the study died young but it was more likely.

In previous studies, researchers have found the Δ32 mutation is associated with a number of other pathogens-it is thought to provide some protection from smallpox and flavivirus.

The reason isn't entirely clear, but Nielsen thinks it's probably because of an increased vulnerability to the flu.

But inactivating a protein found in all humans and most animals is likely to have negative effects, Nielsen said, especially when done to both copies of the gene - a so-called homozygous mutation.

Nielsen said the study does not apply to a form of gene therapy that differs from what the Chinese researcher did. But precisely because the results of genetic modifications aren't yet known, "we should not make CRISPR babies at this stage", Nielsen said.

The researchers say their findings suggest that in the absence of HIV infection, the Δ32 mutation appears to have a negative effect on the health of the individual. "We simply do not yet know enough about the gene". That experiment was widely condemned past year as unethical.

HIV stands Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

A few geneticists are in favor of human gene-editing, arguing that all new technologies have unknown cons when first introduced.

The news set the scientific community alight; an angry mob of researchers carried proverbial pitchforks and torches, calling He's conduct unethical. The first monoclonal antibodies were almost deadly. They feel that attention should be focused on the risk-benefit ratio rather than on gene-editing technology, per se. "This scientist was allowed to do experiments with children, using technology that had not yet been deemed safe", he added. "You can see from this that there will be immediate uptake for application of this".

"Beyond the many ethical issues involved with the CRISPR babies, the fact is that, right now, with current knowledge, it is still very risky to try to introduce mutations without knowing the full effect of what those mutations do", said Rasmus Nielsen, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. "This is not like other technologies". "Undoubtedly gene editing can be a force for good, but there has to be a thorough analysis of both intended and unintended consequences as part of any approval process".

Hurlbut says He was genuinely trying to help prevent the spread of HIV in China, where the disease remains very common in some places and highly stigmatized.

"You are, on average, worse off having this mutation", Nielsen said. "I don't approve it - and I always told him I didn't - but on the other hand it's more understandable".

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