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Chinese genetic editor Han Jiankui may have made twins smarter, researchers say



Updated

February 25, 2019 14:09:23

The controversial Chinese scientist who shocked the world by claiming that he edited the twin sows' genes may have inadvertently improved their brains, researchers say.

Highlights:

  • The new research found links between the CCR5 gene and the school performance
  • A 2016 study showed removal of CCR5 from mice significantly improved their memory
  • He said earlier that he was against using by editing to cognitive improvement

Han Jiankui announced in November of November he had used technology known as CRISPR to alter embryonic genes of twins Lulu and Nana in an attempt to protect them from infection with the HIV virus carried by their father ̵

1; a feature that received widespread international condemnation.

New research published in the journal Cell last Thursday claims the same change to the girls' DNA – deleting a gene called CCR5 – not only makes the mice more clever, but also improves human brain recovery after a stroke and can be linked to greater success in school, MIT Technology Review reported.

But Alcino J Silva, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), whose laboratory uncovered the great new role of the CCR5 gene in memory and the brain's ability to form new compounds, said the exact effect on girls' cognition was impossible to predict.

"The simplest interpretation is that these mutations are likely to have an influence on cognitive function in the twins," said Dr. Silva for MIT Technology Review.

He added that it was "why it should not be done".

While there was no evidence that Mr. He was aiming to improve the babies' intelligence, he told an International Human Resources Summit in Hong Kong last November that he was aware of a previous study co-author of Dr. Silva in 2016, showing removal of the CCR5 gene from mice, significantly improved their memory.

The team had looked at more than 140 different genetic changes to find out which makes the mice more clever.

"I saw the paper, and I think it requires more independent control, "he replied in an answer to a question that asked if he had accidentally increased the cognitive ability of gene-edited babies.

He also told panelists that he was "against the use of genome editing for improvement."

Regardless of his intent, the new research is part of increased evidence that the CCR5 gene plays a significant role in the brain.

& # 39; We are not ready for it yet & # 3 9;

According to MIT Technology Review, the latest document on CCR5 also showed that people who lack at least one copy of the CCR5 gene appear to work better in school to suggest a link to daily intelligence.

"Could it be that at some point in the future we could increase the average IQ of the population? I wouldn't be a scientist if I said no," said Dr. Silva for MIT Technology Review.

"The work in mice shows the answer can be yes. But mice are not humans.

" We simply do not know what the consequences will be in mucking around. We are not ready for it yet. "

Mr Han, fired from his role at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, has not been publicly seen since last November, shortly after his re-editing message.

He is now believed to live in a highly-guarded university-owned apartment in Shenzhen.

Chinese authorities have also stopped all kinds of research as Mr and instructed universities to review all research work on gene editing.

Topics:

science and technology,

biology,

genetics,

law-crime-and-justice,

medical ethics,

China,

Asia

First submitted

February 25, 2019 13:26:52


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