A Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, shocked the world two weeks ago when he revealed that the world’s first genetically edited babies had been born. Jiankui claimed to have edited embryos before implanting them into the mother as part of an otherwise routine in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. Since his bold announcement via YouTube, the scientific community at-large – both in the United States and in China – has strongly denounced this work as deeply unethical and dangerous.

CRISPR, a relatively quick and easy gene-editing technology, is utilized in several ongoing research efforts and clinical trials to prevent or cure diseases. However, the experiment that Jiankui did is fundamentally different from any ongoing gene-editing trials. He used CRISPR to edit germline cells (which include eggs, sperm, and embryos) as opposed to somatic cells (which include other cell types in the body, such as heart, liver, or kidney cells). While genetic changes to most somatic cells remain confined to that individual, changes to germline cells have the potential to be inherited by generations to come.

Many researchers agree that CRISPR technology is too immature to even consider the ethical permissibility of making permanent inherited changes to human genomes.

Jiankui used CRISPR to disrupt the gene for CCR5, a protein on the outer surface of cells that HIV uses to enter. He claimed that disruption of CCR5 would ensure that these babies would be protected from contracting HIV infection. However, HIV can enter cells in other ways that don’t use CCR5, and there are other, safer ways of preventing and controlling HIV infection, calling into question the entire ethical premise of the research.

Jiankui’s work has reignited a much-needed dialogue about the ethics of human germline genetic editing, and it has brought to light concerns about potential unintended consequences. Scientists cannot always be certain of the effect that a genetic change might have. For example, while disrupting the CCR5 receptor might decrease the risk of HIV infection, a significant body of work suggests that this might also increase the risk of contracting other infections such as the West Nile virus. And with current gene-editing technology, there is no way to rapidly reverse genetic changes if they do not have the desired effect – or if there are other unpredictable effects, such as unintended editing at off-target sites in the genome. The general consensus in the scientific community is that CRISPR-mediated gene editing is not ready to edit the human germline. But will scientists like Jiankui continue to push forward anyway?

Managing Correspondent: Radhika Agarwal

Popular news article: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07545-0

Image Credit: Dovidena, CC 4.0

12 thoughts on “China’s Genetically Edited babies: What really happened?

  1. World’s first genetically edited babies! this is a very serious concern in both ways. On one hand, we think about human ethics and another hand we think about human well beings. But one thing is sure that this is unstoppable. In my opinion, we are perfect and we don’t need all these things. All we need is to get rid of desires and desires.

    1. Advancement demands new creation. Although,I too agree that Genetic Edited babies can germinate a huge threat to the new generation but if used properly and in controlled methods then it can be a boon for parents who can’t give birth or those who have a family medical conditions like HIV and Diabetes.

  2. It is also difficult for human genetics to make changes within it.
    The problems that a Chinese human being in adulthood may face can be caused by this process.
    But if researchers can create genetics and correct breeding for the height of Chinese children without the least disruption to genetics, they will make a big difference in technology.

  3. Wow! It sound scary as for me. It would be okay in some way to create a robot baby for those who need some, or even think about creating a virtual reality experience (www.skywell.software/virtual-reality-development/) of having a virtual baby, but to create a real people, be responsible for their development and survival, their possible physical abnormalities and problems, it’s too much. Are there no problems with overpopulation in China already?

  4. I am love to read but Genetically altered embryos can be achieved by introducing the desired genetic material into the embryo itself, or into the sperm and/or egg cells of the parents; either by delivering the desired genes directly into the cell or using the gene-editing technology.

  5. Very inspiring to know more about Genetically Edited babies. I am sure this post has touched all the internet viewers, its really pleasant article to read.

  6. the Chinese researcher who stunned the world last year by announcing he had helped produce genetically edited babies, has been found guilty of conducting “illegal medical practices” and sentenced to 3 years in prison.

  7. Today, such experiments are very inspiring to learn more about genetically edited babies. When we read this kind of information, it seems that we are increasing our knowledge more.

  8. I don’t think its a good development. If parents are not able to make babies due to any problem like medical conditions or something else then there is option of adopting children who are orphans. And fortunately there are a lot of orphans in the world. And first of all china should focus on controlling their population.

  9. Today, these type of experiments are very inspiring to learn more about genetically edited babies. When we read this kind of information, it seems that we are increasing our knowledge more.

  10. We have been waiting a long time for a new blog. Your web writing skills and experience drive my mind crazy.

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