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Shocking use of genome editing

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19.12.2018

The day before an international summit devoted to genome editing, He Jiankui - a Chinese researcher at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzen - has managed to shock many by claiming to have altered the genomes of twin sisters.The alteration was intended to make the child's cells resistant to infections by HIV.

The statement, still unreported in a scientific paper, has provoked a wave of criticism, making some scientists and bioethicists call the work "premature, "ethically questionable" or even "monstrous".The Chinese Society for Cell Biology made a statement calling the research "a serious violation of the laws and regulations of the Chinese government and the consensus of the Chinese research community".Furthermore, the university issued a statement announcing the initiation of an investigation concerning the research due to its alleged serious violation of academic ethics and norms.

Meanwhile, other scientists asked for the disclosure of details of the experiment.The researcher revealed that he had genetically altered the embryos of seven couples in the course of their fertility treatments, out of which one insemination proved successful.Each of these cases involved the HIV-infected father.The experiment served the purpose of introducing a rare, natural and genetic variation that could hamper infecting white blood cells with HIV.Particularly, it was a region of the receptor named CCR5 - located on the surface of white blood cells ? that underwent removal with the use of the genome-editing technique named CRISPR-Cas9.

Source: sciencemag

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