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CCR5 Gene Mortality Paper Retracted

Rasmus Nielsen and Xinzhu Wei from the University of California, Berkeley, have retracted their article that suggested that alterations in the CCR5 gene were linked to increased mortality, Nature News reports.

"I feel I have a responsibility to put the record straight for the public," Nielsen tells Nature News.

In their now-retracted Nature Medicine paper from June, Nielsen and Wei had sifted through UK Biobank data to examine the consequences of CCR5-Δ32 gene mutations — the alteration that researcher He Jiankui had sought to introduce, to much consternation, into twin girls as embryos using CRISPR gene editing.

But after Nielsen and Wei's analysis was published, other researchers had difficulty replicating it. Nielsen and others traced the issue to how the marker they were using to track the mutation was called in the UK Biobank data, which led them to undercount the number of people with CCR5-Δ32 gene mutations, Nature News adds.

In the retraction notice, Nielsen and Wei write that their finding was the result of a technical artifact.

This retraction does not mean it is safe to edit the CCR5 gene, Nature News adds. "It's very reasonable to expect that it might have a valuable function that we just don't know how to measure. It seems very unwise to edit it out," Harvard Medical School's David Reich tells it.