Skip to Content
Biotechnology

A Russian scientist has threatened to make more CRISPR babies

human embryo at 4 days
human embryo at 4 daysPixabay

A Russian biologist has told a journalist at Nature that he wants to create more gene-edited babies and will do it if he can win approval.

Who’s involved: Denis Rebrikov of the Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University in Moscow says he wants to repeat last year’s widely condemned experiment in China to create humans resistant to HIV. He believes he can do a better job.

Is this serious? Rebrikov isn’t known for his work with gene editing. A search of his publications mostly turns up reports on biomarkers of gum disease. However, last October he did author a report in which the gene-editing tool CRISPR was applied to human IVF embryos, one of just a dozen or so such experiments ever described.

What’s more, his coauthors included the director of a large Russian maternity clinic, the Kulakov National Medical Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Perinatology in Moscow. Rebikov believes Russian rules on creating gene-modified babies are unclear and says that he plans to seek approval to carry out the procedure.

Tsk, tsk: Experts say it wouldn’t be responsible to make more CRISPR babies at this time. One reason is that it is hard to know what unexpected effects altering a baby’s genes will have. The gene the Russians want to delete from embryos, CCR5, doesn’t just protect against HIV. It appears to have potential effects on cognition and life span, too.

Yet some scientists will remain driven to genetically modify children, no matter what. “I think I’m crazy enough to do it,” Rebikov told Nature.

Sign up here to our daily newsletter The Download to get your dose of the latest must-read news from the world of emerging tech.

Deep Dive

Biotechnology

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

How do strong muscles keep your brain healthy?

There’s a robust molecular language being spoken between your muscles and your brain.

The quest to show that biological sex matters in the immune system

A handful of immunologists are pushing the field to take attributes such as sex chromosomes, sex hormones, and reproductive tissues into account.

This company is about to grow new organs in a person for the first time

A volunteer with severe liver disease will soon undergo a procedure that could lead them to grow a second liver.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.