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When He Jiankui announced the birth of twin girls whose DNA he had modified when they were embryos using the CRISPR gene-editing tool, he justified his actions on the ground that he had given the two girls lifetime immunity from HIV infection. The Chinese scientist claimed that he had altered a gene called CCR5, which allows the AIDS-causing virus to infect an important class of cells in the human immune system.

Not only was He ethically wrong in doing this work, but its scientific basis was even weaker than generally recognized.

He’s experiment has been widely, roundly, scorchingly, and appropriately condemned. The risks to the babies born nine months later were vastly higher than the benefits to them or to science; the informed consent process for their parents was deeply flawed; China’s legally required regulatory process had apparently been corrupted; the experiments had been wrongly kept secret; and a worldwide scientific consensus against human germline genome editing, built in publications and statements over more than three and a half years, had been ignored.

…continue reading ‘He Jiankui, Embryo Editing, CCR5, The London Patient, and Jumping to Conclusions’

Image: By Thomas Splettstoesser (www.scistyle.com) – Own work (rendered with Cinema 4D), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20316152

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