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‘Shortened life expectancy’ of world’s first genetically engineered babies – how CRISPR is revolutionising medicine

CHINESE geneticist He Jianku has used CRISPR gene editing technology to delete the CCR5 gene required for HIV to infect cells in two human embryos who were at risk of contracting the disease through their father.

This took place in October 2018, without public discussion in the scientific community.

The two girls Lulu & Nana are the world’s first genetically edited babies.

Scientists have been left outraged as this is the first time CRISPR has been used on human embryos and concerns persist regarding the long term health of Lulu & Nana.

Chinese authorities suspended He’s research on November 2018.

A study in the Nature Medicine academic journal suggested that people who naturally have the mutation that Professor He had edited into the girls DNA were significantly more likely to die young.

The study revealed the mutated version of CCR5 were 20% more likely to die before they turned 78.

Prof Rasmus Nielsen, from UC Berkeley told the BBC, “In this case, it is probably not a mutation that most people would want to have.

“You are actually, on average, worse off having it.”

Another geneticist, Dr Xinzhu Wei, said: “The Crispr technology is far too dangerous to use right now for germ-line editing.”

CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats) are a section of genetic code found in Bacteria.

In most basic terms it is a system derived from bacteria that they use to kill and destroy DNA from invading organisms like a virus.

Scientist have now learned how to use this system to cut and change specific sites of our own genomes.

Using a DNA cutting enzyme with a barcode in the form of a RNA molecule this tells the enzyme where to cut in the genome.

The great hope for the CRISPR system is that in being able to tell the enzyme where to cut on the genome we can remove disease causing genes or even cut out and insert new genes.

While He Janku’s work was reckless, here at The Humanoid we believe, with ethical and closely regulated trials in the future, CRISPR will revolutionise medicine in the next 20 years and bring forward a new era of gene therapy treatment for many conditions previously thought to be incurable.

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