Tag Archives: gene editing

Chinese Researchers Experiment with Making HIV-Proof Human Embryos

Yes, you read that headline correctly!

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Chinese fertility doctors have tried to make HIV-proof human embryos, but the experiments ended in a bust. The new report is the second time researchers in China revealed that they had a go at making genetically modified human embryos.

The controversial experiments are, in effect, feasibility studies of whether it’s possible to make super-people engineered to avoid genetic disorders or resist disease.

“It is foreseeable that a genetically modified human could be generated,” according to Yong Fan, a researcher at Guangzhou Medical University, who published the report.

Story via
MIT

His team collected more than 200 one-cell embryos and attempted to alter their DNA to install a gene that protects against HIV infection. The study, published two days ago in an obscure reproductive journal, was first spotted by reporters at Nature.

The scientists cautioned that they believe making actual genetically modified babies should be “strictly prohibited”—but perhaps only until the technology is perfected. “We believe that is necessary to keep developing and improving the technologies for precise genetic modification in humans,” Fan’s team said, since gene modification could “provide solutions for genetic diseases” and improve human health.

The Chinese scientists tried to make human embryos resistant to HIV by editing a gene called CCR5. It’s known that some people possess versions of this gene which makes them immune to the virus, which causes AIDS. The reason is they no longer make a protein that HIV needs to enter and hijack immune cells.

Doctors in Berlin demonstrated the effect after they gave a man sick from HIV a bone marrow transplant from a person with the protective gene mutation. The man—known since as the “Berlin patient”—was cured of HIV, too.

Using the gene-editing method called CRISPR, Fan and his team tried to change the DNA in the embryos over to the protective version of the CCR5 gene in order to show, in principle, that they could make HIV-proof people.

Almost exactly a year ago, in a world first, a separate group in Guangzhou said that it had altered embryos in an effort to repair the genetic defect that causes a blood disease beta thalassemia.

That set off an ethical debate, and last December the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, along with British and some Chinese scientific leaders, said any attempt to make a gene-edited baby would be “irresponsible,” a message that in many ways seemed directed at IVF doctors in China.

In February, U.S. officials went further, calling gene-editing a “weapon of mass destruction” and making a point of singling out the earlier Chinese research.

One day endowing people with protective genes could become a real possibility. It would be like a vaccine, except one that is installed in a person’s genome from birth. And there’s a long list of genes people might demand for their children in addition to HIV resistance. One DNA change, for instance, seems to completely prevent Alzheimer’s. Another generates people with twice the muscle mass.

But that’s a ways off, and Fan’s team said its experiments essentially flopped. They only managed to successfully edit a handful of embryos, and even these ended up as “mosaics,” or a mix of cells, some of which had the new gene, and some that didn’t.

 

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HIV cure now a step closer after scientists make gene editing breakthrough

Genome editing, or genome editing with engineered nucleases (GEEN) is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted or replaced in the genome of an organism using engineered nucleases, or "molecular scissors.

Genome editing, or genome editing with engineered nucleases (GEEN) is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted or replaced in the genome of an organism using engineered nucleases, or “molecular scissors.

American scientists have made huge strides towards finding a cure for HIV using pioneering ‘gene editing’ techniques.  After years of research, the team from Temple University in Pennsylvania used their technique to eliminate the virus fromhuman cells by ‘snipping’ it out.

Story via The Independent
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The successful experiments took place in the lab, but the team is confident the treatment could be trialled on humans within three years.

In a 2014 study, the researchers successfully managed to remove the HIV DNA from normal human cells.

This time around, they used the same technology to remove it from infected T-cells, which play a major role in the immune system, in a more accurate simulation of how the virus would be treated inside patients’ bodies.

During their studies, the team drew blood from people living with HIV. Their T-cells were cultured in the lab, and then treated with the Crispr/Cas9 gene editing system, in which a targeted protein uses enzymes to remove genetic sequences (in this case, HIV DNA) from cells.  Their results definitively proved it is possible to eliminate the virus and prevent it from re-infecting cells using this treatment.

Gene editing is an important field for medical researchers, but there are fears that the process could have negative effects beyond the boundaries of the cells, resulting in further health problems.

However, using highly-detailed genome sequencing to analyse the treated cells, the scientists found they continued to grow and function normally, and didn’t appear to be suffering from any side-effects.

“They demonstrate the effectiveness of our gene editing system in eliminating HIV from the DNA of T-cells and, by introducing mutations into the viral genome, permanently inactivating viral replication.”

Speaking to The Telegraph, Khalili said the study has “huge potential,” and added: “Based on the findings we should be entering into clincical trials within three years.”

A paper detailing their study has now been published in the high-profile Scientific Reports journal.

 

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TWB  FBB

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