Africa-Press – Lesotho. Despite having spent hundreds of billions of dollars on Alzheimer’s research, humanity has failed to bring the issue that takes a heavy toll on aging societies any further toward resolution.
He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who in 2018 rose to global fame and notoriety by creating the world’s first gene-edited child, has re-emerged with a somewhat similar proposal in order to help the aging population and battle Alzheimer’s.
Contrary to the previous studies, in which the genes of embryos had been altered to make them resistant to HIV, no human embryos would be implanted and no babies will be born in this study, which will first be trialed on mice.
The goal of the study is to test whether a particular genetic mutation renders protection against dementia and its most common cause. Thus far, hundreds of billions dollars have been spent by medical companies and research labs around the world to treat Alzheimer’s, but to no avail.
So far it remains unclear how the experiment would proceed, as He was sentenced to three years in prison in China for “illegal medical practices” and slapped with a lifelong ban on working in reproductive technology in 2019.
However, the doctor successfully resurfaced last year and astonished the scientific community by announcing a new lab in Beijing. He said he was still “collecting feedback from scientists and bioethicists now” and so far lacked a concrete timeline for the study.
However, He pledged not to conduct any experiments until he obtains a government permit and gets a green light by international bioethicists from the US and Europe.
He furthermore emphasized that the preclinical study will be “open and transparent” and pledged to post all experiment results and progress on social media. Gene-Editing, Legal Framework and Repercussions
In 2018, He, then a researcher at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, modified human embryos of twin girls using a gene-editing tool called CRISPR.
A third genetically-edited baby was also born from He’s experiments, it later transpired. Following the backlash and the damning court verdict, He admitted that he acted “too quickly” in conducting the research.
That particular study sparked an international furor over the ethics of the experiment, as well as dystopian anxiety of a species-altering future with so-called “designer children” on order.
Despite the fact that gene-editing technologies have proven beneficial for genetic disorders and rare diseases, most countries maintain a severe ban on the altering of genes in human embryos as the changes could be passed on to future generations with potentially unforeseeable consequences.
What is Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It is a progressive disease involving parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
It begins with mild memory loss gradually leading to loss of the ability to maintain a meaningful conversation and adequately respond to the environment. Alzheimer’s is the cause of 60–70% of dementia cases.
As the disease advances, symptoms such as loss of motivation, self-neglect, and behavioral issues set in, as patients tend to isolate themselves and withdraw from family and society.
Over time, key bodily functions are lost. Millions of people across the world are living with Alzheimer’s disease, which is estimated to affect one in nine people aged 65 and older, not to mention early-onset dementia.