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Gaetan Burgio @GaetanBurgio
, 10 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
So let's comment on these reports that came out today on the creation of the first #CRISPR babies from a team at Shenzhen, China reported here -> technologyreview.com/s/612458/exclu… or here -> apnews.com/4997bb7aa36c45… and this Youtube video
What we know about it? Well not much. 1/ They have edited CCR5 gene, which prevent HIV entry. Have they edited CCR5 to generate a ∆32 mutation? no idea. It looks they edited CCR5 in the pronuclear and check editing by sequencing 3-5 days later -> 16/22 edited and 11 implanted
Twins were born with one carrying an heterozygous allele and the second baby an homozygous allele and one carried mosaic alleles. Details? No off target found but I don't have any details on this too. Are the CCR5 protein level changed? Again very little details on this.
So what to make on this? Let's go first technical
1/ Mutations in CCR5 indeed block HIV entry but a/ HIV can still overcome CCR5 null mutation (aka resistance to Maraviroc, CCR5 inhibitor) b/ Host response to HIV is highly polygenic and not the effect of one gene only
Therefore the choice of CCR5 as a target is disputable here.
2/ The #CRISPR editing in these babies is a failure as they've seen mosaic alleles, one twin has an heterozygous mutation only and we don't know the full extent of on- and off target effects
Besides the technical aspect, Let's go with the ethical side. Occidental people will be outraged this has happened. Chinese people, probably not. Knowing quite well China (1/ I have a lab there funded through NSFC 2/ for personal reasons) I am not remotely surprised they did it.
Chinese mindset is different and pragmatic. The benefit outweigh the potential risks in a country where HIV infection rate is high, the HIV positives are marginalized and access to healthcare limited.
Of course there are serious ethical questions on how the work was performed (parents fully aware of the benefit/risks?, some healthcare workers unaware of this work) and once again we don't know any details on this. Is it real? Where are the real data?
And the release of these details corresponds to the #CRISPR gene editing summit starting tomorrow at Hong Kong and Jiankui He will speak on Wednesday and is now famous
Finally to close on this my personal opinion is I am not against #CRISPR human embryos editing but way too premature IMO as once again there is still a lot we don't know on #CRISPR (long term effects....)
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