China clamps down on gene-editing after birth of 'AIDS resistant twins'

Chinese scientist behind 'gene-edited-babies' pauses clinical trial after public outcry but is 'proud' of his work

Chinese scientist behind 'gene-edited-babies' pauses clinical trial after public outcry but is 'proud' of his work

In the video, He declined further comment until presenting his findings to a bustling auditorium filled with journalists and camera crews at a Hong Kong scientific conference on Wednesday, after fallout and global outrage over what some have called a "designer baby" experiment.

He has spoken at the Human Genome Editing Summit at the University of Hong Kong for the first time about his work since the uproar.

Germline gene-editing refers to genetic changes in every cell, that will be passed on to future generations. Still, that practice is surrounded by intense ethical debate, questions on the regulation of safety and is governed by laws in some countries; in the United Kingdom, it is illegal to gene edit human embryos over 14 days old.

He so far has claimed he helped create twin girls whose DNA he said he altered to make them resistant to possible future infection with the AIDS virus.

He Jiankui, an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, addressed about 700 people attending the Human Genome Editing Summit at the University of Hong Kong on Wednesday.

He also said the university where he works had been "unaware of the study's conduct". When asked whether their genotype might affect their upbringing, he said, "I don't have to answer this question".

David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate and a leader of the conference, called Mr He's work "irresponsible", and said it showed the scientific community had failed to regulate itself.

He added that the experiment would "be considered irresponsible" because it did not meet criteria many scientists agreed on several years ago before gene editing could be considered.

The National Health Commission on Monday ordered local officials in Guangdong province -where Shenzhen is located - to investigate He's actions. Using gene-editing tool CRISPR, the team was able to switch off the HIV-related gene on embryos during IVF treatment.

"It is shocking and unacceptable", Xu Nanping, a vice-minister for science and technology, said on Thursday. Ltd. - one of the companies He runs - refused to say if they were aware of the project, but told Caixin the experiment was not conducted on their premises.

Dr. He Jiankui, a US -trained Chinese scientist, shocked the world by claiming on YouTube last week that the first-ever genetically edited human births had taken place. "I feel proudest", he told his peers at the conference, because the twin subjects' father "thought he had lost hope for life." .

Dr He, who was educated at Stanford University, said the twins' DNA was modified using CRISPR, a technique that allows scientists to remove and replace a DNA strand with pinpoint precision. "Just a child who won't suffer from a disease which medicine can prevent", He said in a video published on YouTube. He said he had taken the volunteers through a 20-page document line by line and insisted they gave "informed consent" and "already understood quite well about the gene-editing technology and the potential effects and benefits".

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