Chinese scientist pauses 'gene-edited baby' trial after outcry

Chinese scientist pauses 'gene-edited baby' trial after outcry

Chinese scientist pauses 'gene-edited baby' trial after outcry

Chinese scientist He claims he helped make world's first genetically edited babies: twin girls whose DNA he said he altered.

The twin announcements from the leading scientific body and Chinese authorities capped a dramatic week for the genomics world.

"It is shocking and unacceptable", Xu was quoted as saying.

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.

The Shenzhen-based Southern University of Science and Technology, where He works as an associate professor, denied any involvement in He's research in a statement released later that day.

Dr. He announced on Monday that he used the powerful but not yet fully tested CRISPR-Cas9 technique to edit a gene in an IVF-created embryo, giving the resulting twins, he claimed, protection from the virus that causes AIDS. CRISPR has been hailed as an innovation with tremendous potential, but many in the scientific community believe the technology is still experimental and not ready for human application.

The National Health Commission has ordered an investigation into He's claims, as has the Southern University of Science of Technology, where the scientist worked.

They say there are serious unanswered questions about the safety of embryo editing and a need to make sure that such research is conducted in a transparent, monitored way so the technology is not misused.

Lead researcher He Jiankui yesterday addressed an worldwide conference on gene editing taking place in Hong Kong.

"Even if the modifications are verified, the procedure was irresponsible and failed to conform with global norms", the organizers said in the summit's consensus statement that is usually seen as setting the tone and direction for the fast-changing field. On Wednesday, under questioning from scientists after his talk, He said there had been a second implantation in an early stage.

So far, there's been no evidence to confirm whether the babies have indeed been born, according to Wall Street China.

"We care deeply about the two babies and appeal for the research and formulation of detailed medical and ethical care plans", it said. "Its flaws include an inadequate medical indication, a poorly designed study protocol, a failure to meet ethical standards for protecting the welfare of research subjects, and a lack of transparency in the development, review and conduct of the clinical procedures", they said.

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.

Many other scientists were astounded to hear his claims with some strongly condemning it and others interested to hear more, especially in terms of gene editing for HIV.

"I think this is justifiable", Church said of that goal.

Lovell-Badge said Thursday that the organizers had felt it was "important to give He a platform to present what he had done".

Dr. Kiran Musunuru of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University's George Church have questioned the decision to allow one of the copies to be used in pregnancy attempt, as the researchers new in advance that both copies of the intended gene had not been altered saying in this child nearly nothing will be gained in terms of protection exposing it to all of the unknown safety risks; and use of that embryo suggests main emphasis was on testing editing rather than avoiding disease.

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