HIV-resistant embryos

Initially, genome editing techniques are designed to include the prevention of the inheritance of certain genetic disorders. However, if genome editing technology will develop dynamically in conjunction with technologies of reproductive medicine, including in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood, this may be an alternative strategy available to parents with diseases of the reproductive system, with serious infectious diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus, to achieve a broader range of goals, and primarily to reproduce healthy offspring.


Gene manipulation on human embryos is currently banned in at least 40 countries around the world, including 15 out of 22 Western European states.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently not considering applications for government funding for research involving changes to inherited genes.

In Canada, editing genes that can be passed on to future generations is considered a criminal offense, the maximum sentence for which is 10 years.

In China, scientists can freely conduct experiments on human embryos. In this case, “extra” embryos are used in the experiments, which are obtained but not used during in vitro fertilization.

In the UK, the Department of Human Fertilization and Embryology (HFEA) in 2016 granted the first license for editing the human embryo genome for research purposes to scientists from the Francis Crick Institute under the direction of biologist Kathy Niakan. Thus, the UK became the second country in the world where such procedures are allowed.

Recently, the first experiment on the modification of human embryos using gene therapy was carried out in Russia.

Scientists have mutated a gene that is responsible for binding HIV to the receptor on the surface of cells of the immune system (lymphocyte).

HIV infects lymphocytes by binding to receptors on their surface. However, a small percentage of people are immune to the disease due to a mononucleotide mutation in the CCR5 gene.

Previously, scientists, based on this information, decided to independently create a mutation using gene therapy. They took the patient's lymphocytes and modified them using CRISPR technology. After that, multiplied and returned to the body.

A group of molecular biologists from the Kulakov Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology, Moscow State University and the Pirogov Medical University went further. They made changes to the CCR5 gene of the embryo. During the experiment, they took into account the not very successful experience of Chinese colleagues, which was held in 2016.

Russian specialists improved the method used by their Chinese colleagues and changed embryos in 62% of cases.

Doctors used defective fertilized eggs, which were obtained as a result of IVF, not suitable for implantation of mothers. After that, a combination of Cas9 protein with leading RNA was introduced into the eggs.

Eight of the 16 eggs developed to a stage of 250 cells. In this case, five of them had the necessary mutation.

Scientists have subjected blood cells to editing. As a result, they managed to create a human embryo, which, as it turned out, is resistant to the immunodeficiency virus. In the future, this editing procedure is expected to help women with HIV infection to have healthy children.


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