Gene-Manipulation threatens health of Chinese babies

It was a taboo that set the world impossible: In China a few months ago, the first genetically modified babies in the world to have been born. The Chinese researchers He Jiankui claims at least. A independent scientific evidence, whether the Experiment is actually a success, is missing so far. Many researchers consider it to be plausible.

He Jiankui claims to have the twins Nana and Lulu, thanks to genetic engineering are protected from Aids. How dangerous the surgery is, it is difficult to estimate. Shortly after the announcement, doctors have warned that Gene-Manipulation could have serious health consequences for the children. A recent study in the journal “Nature Medicine” supports this fear. Accordingly, the risk of death is increased by the genetic modification due to other diseases.

About 100 million people have a Mutation

Specifically, it is a protein that is encoded by the Gene CCR5 and an important gateway for the HIV Virus. People to whom this Gene is missing, therefore, have a significantly lower risk of becoming infected with HIV. But the apparently has a price.

For their study, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, had studied 400,000 people between 40 to 78 years, with a naturally different genetic variants of CCR5 carry. The result is that people with the gene mutation, which is said to have been caused at the twins in China, artificially produced, have an up to 21 percent less likely to be 76 years old.

What it is exactly, researchers do not know. “We know that the Protein in the body has an effect,” said Rasmus Nielsen, one of the study’s authors. “Therefore, it is not likely that a Mutation that destroys the Protein, is on average good for the person Concerned.” Worldwide, approximately 100 million people have the Mutation, of course, researchers estimate.

Previous studies had shown that a Mutation of the gene CCR5 may protect not only against HIV but also against pox and other viruses. However, the mortality rate of influenza infection was increased by four times.

The authors of the current study is to dissociate Hey Jiankuis research. “I think there are a lot of things that are, for the moment, the functions of the genes are unknown,” said Xinzhu Wei. Genetic manipulation with the Genschere Crispr/Cas9 were currently too dangerous to test on genetic material from embryos.

He Jiankui has since been dismissed from his University in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, further research was forbidden. In addition, 122 Chinese scientists had condemned the HTS Experiment in an open letter as “crazy”.