Russian molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov plans to change the genes of human embryos with the help of CRISPR / Cas9 technology.
Like his Chinese counterpart, Jiankui He, Rebrikov plans to turn off the CCR5 gene, which encodes a protein that allows HIV to enter embryonic cells. Experimental embryos themselves will be assigned to HIV-positive women who do not respond to standard therapy in the event of pregnancy.
Scientists in Russia plan to approach the experiment more openly than the Chinese, who reported their results only after the children were born.
It is not clear how editing is legal in Russia. According to Nature, the biologist is waiting for a response from the Ministry of Health on this issue.
The scientific community considers such experiments to be not entirely ethical: one cannot simply take an edited fetus into a woman, even if she agrees. If a child is born and grows up, genetic changes will be passed on to next generations – this is a serious intervention, which in biology is called the germline change.
Fears are also associated with the fact that the technology may cause unexpected mutations in the embryo. Rebrikov assures that he is developing a way to avoid this. At the same time, the only article by a scientist on the topic of gene editing in embryos was published in the scientific journal “Vestnik RNIMU”, which he also heads.