CRISPR children, how are they?

Credit: Stefano Navarrini, Innovative Genomics Institute, Anna Meldolesi

Lulu and Nana are three years old. Amy is the name Nature Biotechnology uses to refer to the third CRISPR baby, born in late spring-early summer 2019. Their health is a closely held secret, that Vivien Marx has investigated for the journal’s December issue. “A full understanding of the health risks faced by the children due to their edited genomes may lie beyond the reach of current technology”, she writes. Despite or maybe because of that, the news feature is well worth reading. Below are a few points:

  • Lulu and Nana were born prematurely and were placed in incubators at an undisclosed hospital. 
  • The girls are getting periodical checkups. They were assessed at birth, at six months of age and at one year. Their next exams are scheduled for this month. The costs are currently being reimbursed by people associated with their gene-editor He Jiankui. The lab’s medical plan likely includes developmental assessments and blood tests (also HIV testing). Liver function should be tested at five years of age, and IQ when they are 10. Beyond the lab’s plan, the Chinese government is probably monitoring the girls. According to experts, gene-edited children should be assessed throughout their lifespan and into the next generation.
  • Lulu, Nana (and probably Amy’s) genomes were analyzed in the embryos before implantation, from fetal DNA circulating in the maternal blood, and from umbilical cord blood and placental tissue at delivery.  
  • Establishing how the edits will affect their health and well-being is challenging, considering the risks of off-target and on-target undesired mutations and the fact that the girls are likely mosaic. 

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