Widely Study on CRISPR Babies Gene Mutation Now Retracted for Errors

October 23, 2019

Widely publicized research was withdrawn from a major health magazine.

A widely circulated study showed that the lifespan of the first genetically edited babies had been withdrawn due to major errors in the analysis.

The study, originally published in the journal Nature Medicine on June 3, showed that genetic mutations that prevent HIV infection are associated with an increased risk of death before the age of 76. The mutation, called CCR5-delta 32, is the same as a Chinese scientist trying to make genetic adjustments to twins born last year, a controversial experiment using CRISPR technology.

In publishing the study, the author of the journal Nature Medicine stated that the work highlighted the focus on the use of gene editing techniques in humans.

However, Nature Medicine reported that technical errors in the journal Nature Medicine led the author to underestimate the number of people with CCR5-δ32 mutations in the population. According to the retraction note published on October 8th in Nature Medicine, the error directly affects the main result, thus invalidating the conclusion.

The study’s lead author, Rasmus Nielsen, a population geneticist at the University of California at Berkeley, told Nature News: “I have a responsibility to disclose this record to the public.”

Nevertheless, the withdrawal of the current paper does not mean that the editing of the CCR5 gene (as tried in CRISPR infants) is harmless.