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Another Attempt Expected

A Russian researcher tells Nature News that he is hoping to implant gene-edited embryos into women by the end of the year.

Last November, researcher He Jiankui announced the birth of twin girls whose genomes he said he had altered as embryos, which led to widespread condemnation by the scientific community. Scientists further questioned He's approach to gene editing.

But Nature News reports that Denis Rebrikov from the Kulakov National Medical Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Perinatology and the Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University wants to target the same gene — CCR5 — that He did. Rebrikov says his work, though, would be more acceptable to the community and pose fewer risks. In particular, he plans to disable the CCR5 gene and implant the resulting embryos only in mothers who do not respond well to typical HIV treatments and have a higher chance of passing the virus on to their children, according to Nature News.

Still, researchers tell it there are still a number of unknowns about gene editing and using it in this way is irresponsible. "The technology is not ready," the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna adds at Nature News. "It is not surprising, but it is very disappointing and unsettling."