Genetic Tweak Enhances Intelligence

By: | March 1st, 2019

Image by NIH Image Gallery

Scientists believe that a controversial gene-editing experiment that shocked the world by editing the genes of twin sisters may have inadvertently enhanced their brains in the process.

The controversial Chinese scientist ‘He Jiankui’ earlier used CRISPR technology to delete the embryonic gene CCR5 of twins Lulu and Nana to make the children resistant to HIV.

Now, new research on mice shows that the deletion of CCR5, not only makes mice smarter but also improves human brain recovery after stroke, and significantly improved their memory.

Alcino J Silva, a neurobiologist at University of California, Los Angeles, whose lab uncovered the major new role for the CCR5 gene in memory, said that this experiment may have unintentionally created the first metahumans with enhanced brains.

Silva said, “The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins.

He explained that the exact effect on the girls’ cognition cannot be predicted and “that is why it should not be done.” 

“Could it be conceivable that at one point in the future we could increase the average IQ of the population? I would not be a scientist if I said no. The work in mice demonstrates the answer may be yes,” he says. “But mice are not people. We simply don’t know what the consequences will be in mucking around. We are not ready for it yet.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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