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Lulu and Nana: First genetically modified babies born in China

Staff Writer |
Born this month in China, the twin girls Lulu and Nana are said to carry genes that were altered for HIV-immunity with an "editing" tool when they were still single-cell embryos not yet inside their mother's womb.

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t least that's what He Jiankui, one of the researchers involved, says. The Associated Press (AP), which first reported his claims, says there is no independent confirmation yet. But if He Jiankui has done what he says he has, an MIT publication opines, he's scripted a "stunning medical achievement".

How were Lulu's and Nana's genes modified? The inner life of cells is difficult to explain without jargon, but He Jiankui (himself a father of two girls) does a fairly commendable job.

He said an egg from the twins' mother, Grace, was fertilised artificially with sperm from their HIV-positive dad.

Along with the sperm, He's team "also sent in a little bit of protein and instructions for a gene surgery," one that "removed the doorway through which HIV enters to infect people". A test conducted before the embryos were implanted inside their mother showed the procedure had "worked safely, just as intended".

The gene that He Jiankui sought to disable is called CCR5, which forms a protein doorway that allows HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to enter a cell. The techonology used is called CRISPR-cas9.

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