Tampering with genes permanently altered brain function in twins

Gene-editing and stem cell research are highly controversial topics even now. Due to unknown effects of gene-editing and the limited research on it, people still find the idea of editing genes to be incomprehensible. However, there are still some researchers who defy the general opinion and conduct controversial research on gene editing.

DNA

DNA

In a recently published research regarding human gene-editing experiments, the research findings point towards a negative impact of the gene editing on cognitive function. The findings suggest inhibition of the cognitive function among the participants of the study.

In the center of the study were two Chinese twins who are still too young to assess any changes in their cognitive function.

Neurobiologist Alcino J. Silva from the University of California, Los Angeles is one of the scientists involved in the study. Silva said, “the mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function, but it’s impossible as yet to predict the precise effects.” In previous studies on gene editing, the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique has been linked with unintentional damage to DNA.

The CCR5 Gene Editing

In 2018, a research team comprised of scientists made a statement claiming their success at disabling the CCR5 gene in a twin by using CRISPR gene editing technique with an intention to immunize the girls to HIV. CCR5 is the gene essential to get HIV as the virus uses this gene to infect the body.

In another journal Cell report, findings from research suggested that people without the CCR5 gene might have a faster recovery period after a traumatic brain injury or a stroke. A trial of anti-HIV drug Maraviroc is being conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles. The drug blocks the gene CCR5 chemically and is being studied to assess whether it can improve cognitive function among HIV-infected people.

Silva and her research team conducted the same study on mice and used the gene editing technology to alter the same gene as in the twins. The results of the study seemed to indicate an increase in the intelligence level of the mice making them smarter. Chinese Authorities later detained He Jiankui, the lead researcher of gene editing experiment on the twins, due to the illegal nature of the experiment.

A society open to the concept of Gene editing and scientists achieving real advances on the technology is a feat that is still decades away.

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