Saturday , October 1 2022

Genetically modified children | HPD


One day before the Human Genome Editing International Summit, scientist He Jiankui announced in China that two of his twin girls, who had been modified by "gensax", were born and were as healthy as other children. Genetic modification would immunize her against HIV. The news not only raises scientific but also ethical issues.

Han Jiankui claimed to protect future generations from HIV and AIDS. In addition to the physical consequences of HIV infection, infected and sick people in China also suffer from extensive stigmatization, job losses and social contacts and the difficulty of treatment. Therefore, he tried to find a way to make an infection impossible before birth.

This is said to have been possible by the so-called gene axis, such as the CRISPR / Cas9 method, which is often used to illustrate the function. This goes back to the work of a research group about researchers Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna. Since 2013, it is clear that the method works well in humans.

As with any sensational message, humanity wonder about disease and suffering has come. But his research raises some questions that still need to be clarified. First of all, the question arises as to whether he has performed experiments, that is, if actually genetically modified children were born. Neither Han or his team has so far published intelligent data in a scientific journal, nor were other scientists in the press the material handed over as a success. Based on the data given, no tests could be used to test effectiveness or damage.

On the other hand, data reveals that Hes's attempt to turn off the CCR5 gene, which forms a protein that allows the HI virus to dock to human cells, has only partially succeeded. So only with a twin, both copies of CCR5 are turned off, with the other girls just one. Although the presented data did not show any harm to other genes, the girl with a CCR5 would still not be immune to HIV. However, he believes that an outbreak of AIDS can only be delayed.

Moreover, the change in the CCR5 gene can have fatal consequences for humans. For example, people without normal CCR5 have a higher risk of being infected with the almost worldwide western fever or to die of the flu. Many researchers have therefore reacted indignantly to the publication of Hes. Only from China were over 100 protest letters. But there is also criticism all over the world from the scientific side, because another infection with the HI virus can also be prevented and the consequences of such an experiment for the twins themselves and the potential children of the two are unpredictable.

He had – according to his own information – selected couples who wanted children where the fathers were infected with HIV and the mothers were not infected to save their potential children the risk of infection. The father took medications that suppressed the multiplication of the virus anyway. The seeds were washed even before fertilization to remove that plasma, so no infection could have taken place here. In some of these couples, he performed an implant of fertilized eggs. A couple who are not available for interviews developed a successful pregnancy, which led to the two healthy children being born, he says.

Although he is correct, other researchers warn that healthy children may suffer from side effects of genetic modification in the future. After all, several problems have been discovered during the work of this young method. The protein molecule Cas9 originally derived from streptococci may, for example, trigger immune reactions in the human body that may affect the safety and success of the therapy. Of course, because the twins can have their changed genes, they can affect future generations that can be immune to the HI virus, but can not survive the annual flu epidemic.

He excludes future dangers, referring to his years of research on mice, monkeys and human embryos. However, the scientific community strongly condemns its human experiment, which would not be allowed in many countries in the world. Certainly, most people dream that they can cure their hereditary diseases or not transfer them to their own children. However, there is still no long-term gap in sight from the pharmacy.

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