In a breakthrough in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Chinese scientists have modified a gene in embryos in an attempt to make humans immune to the HIV virus.
Researchers from the Guangzhou Medical University used a gene editing technique named CRISPR/Cas to replace the CCR5 gene in 26 human embryos with an HIV-resistant mutation. Only four embryos were successfully edited, while the other 22 cases failed to produce the desired results.
The research was published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics.
“In this study, we demonstrated that the HIV-resistant mutation could be introduced into early human embryos through the CRISPR system,” said Fan Yong, a researcher of the Guangzhou Medical University and an author of the paper was quoted as saying by state-run China Daily.
The CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique, better known as the molecular Swiss army knife, is a technology developed by US scientist Jennifer Doudna and French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier in 2012.
Since then, scientists from across the globe have been using the technology to edit animals’ gene in the laboratory.
Huang Junjiu, a biologist at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, was the first to apply the technique to humans. He reported his experiment on 71 human embryos in Nature magazine in April 2015.