November 26, 2018
Researchers at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in Shenzhen, China, say they have succeeded in creating two modified twin girls with the CRISPR genetic cutter tool, according to MIT Technology Review and the Associated Press. A day after the announcement, the university itself issued a statement in which it denounced the malpractice of the study director, Jiankui He. According to SUSTech, the scientist is on leave without pay from February 2018 to January 2021, the research was carried out off campus and the university was unaware of the project.
The leader of the investigation announced in a video that they had succeeded in deleting the CCR5 gene to prevent the sisters from being born with the HIV virus that their father carries. In addition, according to him, the girls will be protected against smallpox and cholera. The twins would have been born healthy a few weeks ago.
The molecular biologist Lluís Montoliu, from the National Center for Biotechnology, asks for caution and skepticism: “We are all commenting on a press release and two videos that this researcher has launched from China. Assuming that everything he tells us is true, we would be facing an experiment of colossal irresponsibility because from here to eugenics there is a step ”, Montoliu tells Sinc.
If the announcement is true, what the Chinese researchers have achieved is to generate people with an inactivated gene that is the gateway to HIV lymphocytes, making them virtually immune to the AIDS virus.
It does not cure, it is eugenics
The genetic modification that Jiankui He claims to have carried out is not a therapeutic application of CRISPR. “It does not serve to correct a genetic abnormality of the embryo that could lead to a serious and incurable pathology, it is an experiment in genetic improvement”, Montoliu warns. “They are not curing people but creating people with different capacities.”
Keep reading: A Chinese scientist claims to have created modified babies with CRISPR / News / SINC
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