China CRISPR baby experiment may have created "unintended mutations"

05 Décembre, 2019, 02:06 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Chinese scientist He Jiankui reacts during a panel discussion at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong in 2018

He Jiankui, a Chinese biophysics researcher, earlier claimed to have successfully performed gene-editing on twins Lula and Nana and immunised them against HIV.

It remains unclear whether Chinese scientist He Jiankui's gene-editing on twins born a year ago, meant to immunise them against HIV, has been successful in its intended objective.

Several excerpts from the manuscript were released by the MIT Review for identifying how He Jiankui, the scientist behind this experiment, ignored the scientific norms and used unethical methods on the twins.

However, at the time, it was not clear whether the experiment had even been successful at immunizing the girls against HIV because the researchers had not reproduced the precise gene mutation that is known to confer protection. "Public health initiatives, education, and widespread access to antiviral drugs have been shown to control the HIV epidemic". The immunity occurs due to a mutation in the gene called CCR5. However, the team did not actually reproduce this exact mutation.

"The claim they have reproduced the prevalent CCR5 variant is a blatant misrepresentation of the actual data and can only be described by one term: a deliberate falsehood", said Fyodor Urnov, a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Approaching this document, I was hoping to see a reflective and mindful approach to gene editing in human embryos".

While the team targeted the right gene, they did not replicate the "Delta 32" variation required, instead creating novel edits whose effects aren't clear.

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Moreover, CRISPR remains an imperfect tool because it can lead to unwanted or "off-target" edits, making its use in humans hugely controversial.

"It is a ways technically very no longer liable to examine whether or no longer an edited embryo "did no longer demonstrate any off-aim mutations" with out destroying that embryo by inspecting every person of its cells".

Further ethical concerns included that the parents of the babies might have wanted to take part for the wrong reasons.

The mother and father' lack of entry to any sort of fertility therapy might need motivated them to participate within the experiment regardless of the massive dangers to their youngsters, Jeanne O'Brien, a reproductive endocrinologist at Shady Grove Fertility instructed the MIT Know-how Evaluate. "Was this couple free from undue coercion?"

The researchers also seem to have made it hard to find the family by omitting the names of the fertility doctors and by stating a false date of birth.

Chinese scientist is facing backlash from fellow scholars for his inhumane experiment on twins.

To date, no journal has agreed to publish the research, despite He submitting it to a number of publications since past year, including Nature and the JAMA.

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