Science 2 min read

Researcher Warns That China's Gene-Edited Twins Have Enhanced Brains

In another twist to an already strange story, a researcher has warned that the gene-edited twins born in China last year, along with being immune to HIV, could inadvertently have enhanced brains.

Chinese scientist He Jiankui is reportedly under government watch after announcing the existence of gene-edited twins Lulu and Nana ¦ Image via WIkipedia

Chinese scientist He Jiankui is reportedly under government watch after announcing the existence of gene-edited twins Lulu and Nana ¦ Image via WIkipedia

A researcher believes that China’s gene-edited twins have not only become resistant to HIV after the procedure. It appears that their brains were also altered, potentially giving them powerful memorization and learning capabilities.

Lulu and Nana were conceived artificially last year. However, unlike other babies that went through the same procedure, their genes were edited first using CRISPR gene-editing technology to make them HIV-resistant.

To date, CRISPR’s viability as a treatment to many genetic diseases is still heavily questioned. In fact, its practice is only limited to controlled experiments made in laboratories by scientists using animal specimens.

By all accounts, the world is not ready for designer babies or gene-edited babies. However, Chinese scientist He Jiankui broke all protocols and went on with his experiment which opened the door to consequences not yet known to science.

The Gene-Edited Babies

According to Alcino Silva, a neurobiologist from the University of California, He’s removal of the CCR5 gene on the twins may have also affected their brains.

In his research study, conducted in 2016, Silva applied the same gene alteration that He performed on the twin girls to mice. The results showed that the mice not only became smarter; they also demonstrated significant brain improvements after stroke.

The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains,” Silva told MIT Technology Review. “Those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins that is why it should not be done.

Scientists have been studying the CCR5 gene since the early 90s. Early studies suggest that it helps protect vital organs of the body like the liver, lungs, and brain during chronic illnesses or severe infections.

According to Silva, he and his team from the U.S. and Israel have already gathered evidence that CCR5 suppresses memories and the brain’s synaptic connections. Meaning, people who have no CCR5 gene could potentially have smarter minds.

Making the girls smarter was probably not one of He’s intentions when he removed their CCR5 genes. The Chinese scientist experimented without a full understanding of the consequences and has not consulted other geneticists or neurobiologists before doing it.

My reaction was visceral repulsion and sadness,” Silva said when asked about his reaction to He’s work. I suddenly realized—Oh, holy s***, they are really serious about this.

Read More: China Declares Experiment On Gene-Edited Babies Illegal

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Rechelle is an SEO content producer, technical writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with family and friends.

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