Chinese researchers have performed a genetic modification experiment to analyze the brains of twin girls, Lulu and Nana, through which significant changes are being observed in the improvement of cognitive ability and memorizing power.
A team of Chinese researchers had modified the genes of the girls at the embryonal stage using CRISPR, a novel gene editing tool. The target of the research was to improve the functioning of the immune system of the girls against HIV virus infection.
But now, the same research involving that same gene alteration—deletion of CCR5 gene from the girls’ DNA—confirms the human brain to recover better after stroke and possibly linked to greater memorizing ability. The same research experiment has been tested on mice, which developed smartness in genetically engineered mice.
Alcino J. Silva is a neurologist, who discovered the vital role of the CCR5 gene in managing the ability to form new connections and to impact the memorizing ability.
He demonstrated that the mutations have the possible impacted the cognitive ability in the twins, but the exact effect of mutation over the girls’ cognition could not be appropriately predicted.
He Jiankui—the Chinese research team leader—stated that his team had used CRISPR technology to split out CCR5 gene from human embryos’ DNA, and few of those embryos were inserted back into women to create pregnancies. HIV infection is associated with the presence of the gene in the human blood cells.
This gene editing research is criticized as reckless, and at present, Jiankui is under investigation by the Chinese regulation. Rumors over the first genetically modified babies’ development are also arousing, if one day CRISPR technology could be used to generate an improved species of humans, possibly through the biotechnology-based battle between the world’s two strongest economies.
However, it is not yet verified that Jiankui has actually created any modification in twins’ intelligence. Researchers, who are trying to identify the effects of removal of the gene on memorizing ability, told MIT Technology Review that the Chinese scientist never came to them for any sort of scientific support and help.