Recently a Chinese scientist, Dr. He, allegedly created genetically altered human twins that are resistant to HIV. Dr. He managed to do this by using a CRSPR Cas-9 protein, which essentially cut out the CCR5 gene. The CCR5 gene is responsible for creating a protein that allows HIV to enter cells, so by cutting out this gene Dr. He seemingly made the twins HIV resistant.
When Dr.He and his team shared their experiment at a conference in Hong Kong, where it received a lot of criticism and backlash for a couple of reasons. The first reason being that in most places in the world using humans as test subjects in experiments is illegal, and can lead to time in prison. Another reason for the backlash is that using humans as test subjects goes against an agreed upon code of ethics in the field. A third reason for the extreme backlash is that the technology used to edit genes is nowhere near perfect, and when used can lead to a multitude of life threatening problems from birth defects to never before seen diseases. These diseases may be caused, because the protein CRSPR used could have possibly cut the wrong part of the gene sequence. The opinion of many scientists at the conference was that Dr.He recklessly endangered the lives of babies for a reason that was nowhere near good enough.
To try and ease some of the tension Dr. He told fellow scientists that after testing cells of the newborn babies nothing harmful was found, which provides evidence that his gene editing worked correctly. Even though Dr. He is though to be ethically in the wrong, his experiment may have opened a whole new realm of possibilities in the future of gene editing.
“Chinese Scientist Creates Genetically Edited HIV Resistant Babies.” IAfrica.com, 27 Nov. 2018, www.iafrica.com/chinese-scientist-creates-genetically-edited-hiv-resistant-babies/.