Scientists Say China Gene-editing Experiment Failed, May Have Created Mutations

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He Jiankui, a Chinese biophysics researcher, earlier claimed to have successfully performed gene-editing on twins Lula and Nana and immunised them against HIV.

Written By Vishal Tiwari | Mumbai | Updated On:
Scientists

Chinese scientist is facing backlash from fellow scholars for his inhumane experiment on twins. He Jiankui, a Chinese biophysics researcher, earlier claimed to have successfully performed gene-editing on twins Lula and Nana and immunised them against HIV. The medical breakthrough Jiankui claimed to have achieved is being criticised by fellow researchers for ignoring ethical and scientific norms. 

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A failed Chinese experiment

He Jiankui claimed that he has conducted the first genome-editing experiments on embryos that were implanted and brought to term. But scientists say that the experiment may have failed in its purpose to immunise the twins against HIV and may have created mutations. Scientists came to this conclusion after looking at the research papers that were made public for the first time. Excerpts from the manuscripts were released by the MIT Technology review to show how He Jiankui ignored scientific norms in creating the twins Lula and Nana. 

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There are few people in this world who are born with immunity against HIV. The immunity occurs due to a mutation in the gene called CCR5. It is this gene that Jiankui claimed to have targeted using the powerful editing tool CRISPR. But according to MIT Technology Review, the experiment failed in its purpose to create the intended mutation despite the team targeting the right gene. 

The legitimacy and safety implications of the research were condemned by the scientific world. The research lacked collaborators, which was one of the reasons scientists blasted He Jiankui's unethical experiment. Dr He mentions 10 authors he collaborated on the research work but there is no mention of doctors and medical professionals which is again a gross violation of scientific norms. 

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It is being said that the parents participated in the experiment because the father was HIV positive and it is a social stigma in China. It is almost impossible to have access to fertility treatment if a person concerned is HIV positive. That is what led to the parents taking part in the experiment. According to scientists, this is unethical and is against scientific norms. 

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