Scientist's claim of gene-edited babies creates uproar

Chinese researcher stakes claim to world’s first genetically edited babies

Chinese researcher stakes claim to world’s first genetically edited babies

He Jiankui, the scientist who led the effort, announced the outcome in a promotional video on YouTube Sunday, just days ahead of participating in an worldwide conference on human genome editing scheduled to take place this week in Hong Kong.

Robin Lovell-Badge, group leader and head of the Division of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute, said "gene editing is not something to be scared about", and he doesn't think what He has done will affect a human's core genome. Nor did he say when the results might be published. He used a powerful new gene editing tool called CRISPR-cas9, which has the ability to rewrite DNA, according to the report.

The modification was meant to mirror a natural mutation found in a small percentage of people which makes them resistant to the virus.

Earlier this month, a public poll by Sun Yat-sen University revealed that while a majority of respondents in China supported gene editing and its legalization for treating diseases, they objected to gene editing for human enhancement.

The researcher's 40-minute Q&A offered a charged forum for scientists to publicly question a colleague caught in controversy.

With all this in mind, any research in this area needs to be peer-reviewed and published in the scientific literature, with all the necessary preliminary work, so that we can make a valued analysis of the technique. When he saw He four or five weeks ago, He did not say he had tried or achieved pregnancy with edited embryos but "I strongly suspected" it, Hurlbut said.

The university added that He's research utilizing altered DNA was "conducted outside of the campus and was not reported to the University nor the Department".

Manipulating the genes to prevent HIV infection, "we don't even know what the long-term consequences of that are". Medical advances need to be openly discussed with patients, doctors, scientists and society, he wrote.

"For this case, I feel proud".

He had studied in the past at Rice and Stanford universities in the United States.

AP via The Canadian Press He Jiankui speaks during an interview at a laboratory in Shenzhen.

"It is extremely unfair to Chinese scientists who are diligent, innovative and defending the bottom line of scientific ethics", they added. While an explicit ban on gene editing on embryos intended for reproduction does not exist in the country, strict ethical guidelines recommend strongly against the practice.

However, one well-known geneticist, Harvard University's George Church, defended the attempt to edit genes to prevent infections of HIV. The criteria required the father to be HIV positive and the mother to be HIV negative.

A copy of the contract the paper obtained showed each couple who agreed to participate would be awarded 280,000 yuan (US$40,268), provided they relinquish their right to demand compensation if infected with HIV during the experiment.

He told the audience he had worked on 31 eggs and implanted two altered embryos in one woman. According to He, his team will track the infants' development for the next 18 years, "with the hope that they will consent as adults for continued monitoring and support".

Genetic editing is banned in the USA for ethical reasons, including the risks it poses to DNA that can be passed on to future generations.

- A Chinese researcher claims to have genetically modified twin babies as embryos using an experimental procedure, and it's stirring up a controversial conversation about rewriting a person's DNA.

The parties mentioned in the research have denied having any knowledge of He's project, while on Tuesday, China's science ministry said it would investigate whether the associate professor had broken the law. An investigation is underway and He has been suspended from his university. Soon after, he was peppered with questions, many of which he appeared unable or unwilling to answer.

Antonio Regalado, senior editor for biomedicine for MIT Technology Review - the publication which first highlighted the trial on Sunday - said He's talk was "ethically a half-baked mess".

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