Why we may never know the fate—good or bad—of China’s controversial CRISPR babies

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Image: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

Since the gene-edited babies known as Lulu and Nana became international news in November 2018, scientific debate and media speculation have swirled around the potential impacts of modifying their gene for CCR5. One recent study prompted the MIT Technology Review to suggest the twins have enhanced memories and learning abilities, leading to copycat stories worldwide that exercised less restraint. And in June, drawing on a population analysis of variants of the gene CCR5 published in Nature Medicine, headlines blared that the girls might have shortened lives.

A major concern has been that He Jiankui’s attempts to cripple CCR5, the gene for a protein on immune cells that HIV uses to infect the cells, also made “off-target” changes elsewhere in the girls’ genomes. Those changes could cause cancer or other problems. He contends that the babies have no such off-target mutations, although some scientists are skeptical of the evidence offered so far.

Related article:  CRISPR-edited chickens are coming: Can they stop a bird flu epidemic?

Or the editing of CCR5 in Lulu and Nana could have no detectable consequences at all. With no one providing updates on the health of the children, that outcome, perhaps the most likely one, may never be headline news.

Read full, original post: Did CRISPR help—or harm—the first-ever gene-edited babies?

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