Today on NOW, Aurora Calderone discusses Professor He Jiankui’s secret project in which he genetically modified embryos to prevent them from contracting HIV. UVA’s own geneticist, Mazhar Adli, offers his thoughts on the discovery.
Produced by: Kyra Min and Aurora Calderone
—————————————————— Ever heard of babies born without genes? Well thanks to China’s genetic engineering, the world just got its first pair!! I’m Aurora Calderone, today is November 28th and this is NOW! A Chinese professor and scientist alleges he is the world’s first to genetically alter babies. Professor He altered the DNA of embryos to stop twins from contracting HIV. Despite this seemingly enormous feat, professor He’s research has not been peer reviewed and his university fails to authenticate this project and research. His project consisted of 8 volunteer couples where fathers were HIV positive and mothers were HIV negative. According to the BBC News He announced that the twins “Lulu” and “Nana” were “born normal and healthy” and that he plans to continue to monitor them through their childhood and into adult life. In response, UVA geneticist Mazhar Adli claims that while Professor He’s alteration of genes does prevent the HIV infection, the deletion of gene CCR5 also fails to ensure proper white blood cell function and could potentially fail in protecting against the West Nile infection. He argues that there are presently safer and more straightforward ways to prevent HIV and questions the effectiveness of Professor He’s project. In conversation with Live Science, Adli said quote , “who will take the responsibility for those future babies when their peers are treated with a simple pill and happily survive, but the gene edited ones are experiencing all the yet-to-be-identified [side] effects?” Maybe Professor He’s next endeavor will be to genetically alter college students’ brains to help us get through finals. Hang in there guys!