A Chinese scientist by name, Jiankui, who caused rampage last year when he claimed to have created the world’s first “gene-edited” babies.
The twin baby girls that resulted out of his unethical scientific experiment had their gene edited in a way that they are protected from HIV.
He Jiankui, a former associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, sparked an international scientific and ethical row when he said he had used a technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of the twin girls born in November 2018.
According to him, he targeted a gene known as CCR5 and edited it in a way he believed would protect the girls from infection with HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS.
But, it was discovered to be a foolish move when a study published in the journal Nature Medicine on Monday, spelled out that people who have two copies of a so-called “Delta 32” mutation of CCR5 – which protects against HIV infection in some people – also have a significantly higher risk of premature death.
The scientists who discovered this; Xinzhu Wei and Rasmus Nielsen of the University of California, Berkeley, said their findings showed the unintended consequences of introducing mutations in humans.
The results showed the Chinese scientist “was foolish to alter the CCR5 gene in his attempts at germline genome editing”.
This should serve as a warning that manipulation of the human genome with the aim of reducing susceptibility to specific diseases is not without considerable risk.
The Berkeley team’s further studied & analyzed genotype and death register details from more than 400,000 people registered at the UK Biobank – an database of health and genetic information.
They found that people who have two copies of the Delta 32 mutation are about 20% less likely to reach age 76 compared with people who have one or no copies.
Chinese authorities immediately denounced the Scientist’s research after he made his claim last year, and they went ahead to issue a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes.
The research also led to him being fired after a subsequent Chinese health commission investigation found he had “deliberately evaded oversight”.