Scientist defends 'world's first gene-edited babies'

Scientist defends 'world's first gene-edited babies'

Associate Professor He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen posted an online video on Monday claiming his research led to the births of gene-edited twins who are resistant to HIV infection.

David Liu of Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute, the inventor of a variation of the gene editing tool, said: "I feel more disturbed now. I feel proudest", He said when challenged by several peers at the Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong.

Gene editing technology is revolutionising biology - and now twin human baby girls may be a living part of this story.

It was unclear whether the pregnancy had ended or not. By the standards of the global scientific community, He used a gene editing technology that is not fully understood, implanted embryos with clear evidence of unusual genetic activity, failed to obtain proper consent from the families involved, and-perhaps worst of all-conducted a risky procedure with no certain benefit. He said his research has been submitted to a scientific journal for review, without naming the publication, and apologized for the result leaking "unexpectedly".

As if things couldn't get weirder, the university then came out to say the scientist had gone rogue and carried out the study in secret without their knowledge.

Dr Xu had said earlier that Chinese regulations issued in 2003 permitted gene-editing experiments on embryos for research purposes, but only if they remained viable for no more than 14 days.

But scientists and the Chinese government have denounced the supposed finding, and a hospital linked to the research suggested its ethical approval had been forged.

Dr. Robin Lovell-Badge, who moderated the Wednesday session, said in an email that "it would have been hard to have sufficient security" for a second talk.

Scientist He Jiankui attends the International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong
Scientist He Jiankui attends the International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong

CRISPR-Cas9 allows scientists to essentially cut and paste DNA, raising hope of genetic fixes for disease. Others have expressed concern for both the safety of the human gene pool and the recently born infants, female twins, long-term health. "We don't know. He said he confirmed that essentially they'd done the hormone test for whether or not the woman was pregnant".

A total of eight volunteer couples with HIV-positive fathers and HIV-negative mothers had signed up to the clinical trial, with one dropping out before it was halted. Bioengineering Professor Michael Deem, who was the scientist's adviser when he studied in the U.S., toldAP that he "absolutely" thinks the participants of the trials were fully aware of the risks involved.

He said that all the participants had a "good education background" and went through two rounds of discussions with him and his team.

He said there had been "another potential pregnancy" involving a second couple, but it is unclear whether that pregnancy is still ongoing.

Baltimore added, "I don't think it has been a transparent process". "We only found out about it after it happened, and after the children were even born".

Dr Baltimore said he didn't think that was medically necessary and that the conference committee would meet and issue a statement on Thursday about the future of the field.

The National Health Commission has ordered local officials in Guangdong province-where Shenzhen is located-to investigate He's actions, reported AP.

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