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May 18, 2019

Scientists ‘went rogue’ and genetically engineered two human babies—or at least claimed to

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, genetics

In the past 24 hours, a story of potentially world-changing import has surfaced. First reported by the MIT Technology Review and then not long after by the Associated Press, who seem to have been sitting on the story for a while, the news that a Chinese scientist named He Jiankui led an unprecedented experiment to edit human embryos and see them carried to term rocked the genetics community. Here’s what you need to know about this evolving story.

The science

Besides He, the most important players in this story may be twin baby girls named Nana and Lulu. As far as we know the twins were edited as embryos using CRISPR-cas9, a gene editing tool. The stated purpose of the edit was to disable CCR5, a gene involved in allowing HIV to invade cells, which is how a virus infects a host.

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