Gene-editing may have impacted brains of Chinese twins

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New research from UCLA has shown that removing the gene CCR5, could potentially be linked to enhancing one's ability to learn and form memories.

Last year, in November, a Chinese scientist allegedly used CRISPR, a gene-editing tool, to create the world's first gene-edited babies. He Jiankui said he altered the babies' DNA to remove a gene called CCR5, according to a Associated Press report from the time. This would make the twin baby girls immune to HIV.

New research, published in the journal Cell, people who lack CCR5 were found to have better cognition and were also found to recover faster from strokes. The researchers tested their theory on mice. They altered the DNA of the mice to remove CCR5. This was found to enhance animals' intelligence.

According to MIT Technology Review, the scientists connected their findings to the Chinese twins. Researcher Alconi J.Silva explained the gene-modification performed on them "likely" affected their brains. "The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins," Silva explained, according to MIT Technology Review.

Follow up studies about CCR5 are already taking place at UCLA, with participants being given Maraviroc, an HIV treatment , to see if it improves cognition. Silva said that altering CCR5 was found to have big effects. Silva added that we "are not ready" for the consequences we could potentially face for mutating DNA.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Altering the DNA with CRISPR, HIV virus
2. DNA strand and twin baby girls
3. DNA strand, brain
4. Mouse, DNA strand being edited
5. A male avatar, cognition icon and brain flashing red
6. Another male avatar taking Maraviroc

VOICEOVER (in English):
"Last year, in November, a Chinese scientist allegedly used CRISPR, a gene-editing tool, to create the world's first gene-edited babies."

"According to an Associated Press report from the time, He Jiankui, said he altered the babies' DNA to remove a gene called CCR5." "

"This would make the twin baby girls immune to HIV."

"New research from UCLA has shown that removing the gene CCR5, could potentially be linked to enhancing one's ability to learn and form memories."

"The researchers tested their theory on mice."

"They altered the DNA of the mice to remove CCR5. This was found to enhance the animals' intelligence."

"According to a new study published in the journal Cell, people who lack CCR5 were found to have better cognition..."

"...and were also found to recover faster from strokes."

"Follow up studies about CCR5 are already taking place at UCLA, with participants being given Maraviroc, an HIV treatment, to see if it improves cognition."

SOURCES: The Associated Press, Cell, MIT Technology Review,
https://www.apnews.com/4997bb7aa36c45449b488e19ac83e86d
https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(19)30107-2
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612997/the-crispr-twins-had-their-brains-altered/