Viewpoint: He Jiankui’s CRISPR babies experiment was ‘even worse than I first thought’

| | April 25, 2019
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He Jiankui. Image: VCG
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

When He Jiankui announced the birth of twin girls whose DNA he had modified when they were embryos using the CRISPR gene-editing tool, he justified his actions on the ground that he had given the two girls lifetime immunity from HIV infection. The Chinese scientist claimed that he had altered a gene called CCR5. …

He’s experiment has been widely, roundly, scorchingly, and appropriately condemned. The risks to the babies born nine months later were vastly higher than the benefits to them or to science… .

My message here is that CCR5∆32 does not guarantee immunity to HIV infection. It works only for strains of HIV-1 that use both the CD4 and CCR5 cell surface receptors to infect T cells.

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Would a serious advance review of He’s experiment have caught this issue? I can only hope so. It certainly should have if the reviewing group included expertise in HIV infection and not just in CRISPR editing. This is a crucial lesson in the importance of a probing prior review before any experiment involving human subjects and especially before any first-in-human experiment. …

Nature is complicated, viruses are tricky, assumptions are dangerous — and He Jiankui’s experiment was, amazingly, even worse than I first thought.

Read full, original post: He Jiankui, embryo editing, CCR5, the London patient, and jumping to conclusions

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