The genetically-modified Chinese twins born resistant to HIV last year may also have mental ‘superpowers’ their creator has kept quiet – a cognitive superiority that could kick off a genetic arms race, according to new research.
Lulu and Nana, the genetically-modified Chinese twins reportedly born HIV-resistant courtesy of the CRISPR gene editing tool, may also have been born with markedly superior mental abilities linked to the same gene edit. New research has confirmed that deleting the CCR5 gene – the same modification performed on the girls’ DNA – significantly improves cognition, learning, and memory in mice and men.
“The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains,” University of California at Los Angeles neurobiologist Alcino Silva told MIT Technology Review, after publishing a paper demonstrating CCR5 deactivation’s beneficial role in post-stroke recovery this week.
“Those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins,” but the effect is unpredictable, he said, and “that is why it should not be done.”
He Jiankui, a researcher at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, made headlines in November after claiming his team had created the first HIV-resistant babies by deleting the CCR5 gene from human embryos using CRISPR, then implanting the embryos in women.