China orders halt to baby gene-editing activities

China orders halt to baby gene-editing activities

China orders halt to baby gene-editing activities

A Chinese scientist who claims to have created the world's first genetically edited babies said at a conference on Wednesday that his actions were safe and ethical, and he asserted that he was proud of what he had done. His revelations have sparked a robust debate over the ethical boundaries of genetic editing and prompted calls for stricter regulation amid fears that the world could be moving closer to producing designer babies. He said his research has been submitted to a scientific journal for review, without naming the publication, and apologized for the result leaking "unexpectedly".

"The nature of this incident is extremely bad, which has seriously damaged the image and interests of the Chinese scientific and technological community", said Huai Jinpen, party secretary of the China Association for Science and Technology.

There is not yet independent confirmation of his claim, but scientists and regulators have been swift to condemn the experiment as unethical and unscientific. 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.

The researcher told the audience of several hundred scientists and journalists-with 8,000 more watching live online-that he had edited 30 embryos using CRISPR/Cas9 to delete both copies of the CCR5 gene. The MIT Technology Review subsequently reported Monday that He is now suspended without pay and under investigation by the university into whether his experiment violated Chinese laws or regulations. "I personally don't think it was medically necessary". 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". Doudna, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says she hopes CRISPR will someday be used to edit awful diseases out of the human genome.

"We've been talking about genetic engineering of embryos for a while", Evans said.

Nobel laureate David Baltimore called He's work irresponsible.

Conference moderator Robin Lovell-Badge said He's trial was a "backward step" for the science industry, but described the babies' birth as "momentous" nonetheless.

Dr. Matthew Porteus, a genetics researcher at Stanford University, where He did postdoctoral research, said He told him in February that he meant to try human gene editing.

The university said that it had "no knowledge of this work" and that to its knowledge, the work was not performed in the U.S.

Beijing simultaneously warned that He's gene-editing activities may have broken the law and ordered an investigation. By contrast, the United States and many other countries have strictly restricted Crispr's use in so-called germ-line editing, which involves changes that will impact the descendants of an original patient and is the kind He claims to have performed in China.

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