China Researcher claims the first genetic-edited babies


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In Hong Kong, China, genetic scientist He Jiankui claims to make the first genetic-edited babies as a modified pregnancy resulted in twin sisters who are claimed to be modified. His goals are not to cure an inherited disease, but to add a trait that prevents HIV infections, which very few people are naturally born with.

Jiankui’s idea is to disable a gene called CCR5 and replace it with a mutated version of it called CCR5-delta 32, which has an outer layer on the blood cells to prevent HIV infections from getting to the protein in the cell. With very little research, it is still unknown about the effects of disabling CCR5 and using CCR5-delta 32 as it could allow other deadly diseases to enter the cells. He states that this is not a first, but an example for people to decide on what will happen next.

Gene editing became relatively easy in recent years as the tool called CRISPR-cas9 can disable or add genes to the strands of DNA in the body. It has only been used on adult patients to treat deadly diseases but is restricted to the person and can’t be passed down to offspring. When editing sperm, eggs, or embryos, changes can be inherited and passed down, which can destroy other genes from the parents.

When the claim was spread worldwide, many scientists condemned it as unethical and dangerous. Most genetic scientists say that editing a baby’s gene now is premature and could destroy future genes that could benefit society in a very good way. Musunuru, a scientist, says, “In that child, there really was almost nothing to be gained in terms of protection against HIV and yet you’re exposing that child to all the unknown safety risks.” A famed genetic scientist, George Church of Harvard University, says it is justifiable as it is a global threat that can kill future generations. He Jiankui states that one-day people will have to resort to editing babies for removing diseases at birth.

All fathers in the experiment have HIV infections that are stopped by medicine but have not revealed it since it was common for people with HIV infections to lose jobs and have trouble getting medical care insurance. Jiankui offers the procedure to couples with HIV to prevent future infections as medicine already can prevent transferring HIV infections to offspring. As scientists are disputing about editing babies, it is still unknown about the health benefits and risks of altering genes of babies.


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