Do you know about a crazy science experiment to make a super human in the lab? In China, a researcher by the name of He Jiankui, who held the position of an associate professor in the biology department at Southern University of Science & Technology in Shenzhen, conducted a groundbreaking experiment that captured global attention. He focused his efforts on twin sisters named Lulu and Nana, targeting them at the embryonic stage with effects that would reverberate overnight. The ramifications of this gene manipulation were remarkable and shocked the world.

In his ambitious endeavor, He Jiankui aimed to engineer enhanced humans using advanced gene-editing techniques. Specifically, he employed the CRISPR technology to delete a gene known as CCR5, resulting in significant alterations to the twins’ physiology. The ramifications of this gene manipulation were remarkable and included:

  1. Heightened Resistance to HIV: The twins exhibited increased resistance to the HIV virus, marking a substantial advancement in preventing this life-threatening infection.

  2. Accelerated Cognitive Abilities: Lulu and Nana demonstrated cognitive capabilities that surpassed the norm, with their thinking capacity reportedly operating at three times the pace of an average human.

  3. Drastically Reduced Stroke Risk: The likelihood of experiencing strokes was notably diminished in the genetically modified twins, offering potential insights into stroke prevention.

Following the completion of the experiment, He Jiankui’s attempt to share his research with the scientific community was met with intense backlash and condemnation. Critics labeled his work as ethically unsound and perilous to the future of humanity. As a result, the Southern University of Science and Technology took the decision to sever ties with him, compelling He Jiankui to withdraw from the public eye for a period.

The situation escalated when Chinese authorities intervened, leading to He Jiankui’s arrest by the police in December 2019. Subsequently, he faced legal repercussions and was sentenced to a two-year punishment by the court. Emerging from this period of confinement, He Jiankui returned to the public sphere in April 2022.

Attempts by certain institutions, such as MTI, to engage with He Jiankui were met with resistance. When approached for comment, he declined discussions, indicating that the timing was not suitable for such conversations before concluding the interaction.

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  • Gouw, Arvin. “The CRISPR advent of lulu and nana.” Theology and Science 17, no. 1 (2019): 9-12. [Article]
  • Zaretsky, Adam. “Human germline gene editing is bioart: An open letter to Lulu and Nana.” In Routledge Handbook of Art, Science, and Technology Studies, pp. 450-464. Routledge, 2021. [Article]

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