Ethicists and medical experts in the U.S. say that the use of gene editing to make babies resistant to HIV infection is a step too far ― and could be a step back for genetic science.
News broke early Monday morning that Chinese scientist He Jiankui altered the genetic code of two embryos to make them resistant to HIV, and then transferred them to a woman who later gave birth to two girls ― twin sisters.
While his claims have yet to be verified, He says that one baby has two sets of the altered CCR5 gene, which he hopes will prevent HIV from being able to enter her cells if she were to ever come in contact with the virus. The other baby only appears to have one set of altered CCR5 genes, which may not protect her completely from HIV infection but may extend her life if she were to become infected.
While He is trying to present his findings as a boon for the HIV community, researchers and bioethicists in the U.S. say the announcement has left them baffled and concerned.
HIV researchers are interested in gene editing, but not the way He did it, said Paul Volberding, co-director of the University of California, San Francisco Gladstone Center for AIDS Research.