Scientist in gene-editing controversy ran second experiment on human embryos

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

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

The twin girls were born a few weeks ago.

The work, which also involved USA bioengineer Michael Deem, was not peer-reviewed.

China's Ministry of Health said it was placing a high priority on the case and that it ordered the probe.

"I would hope that the global bodies that have stated quite firmly up until this point that we would not want this to happen would still stay firm regardless of someone going rogue", she said.

In this October 10, 2018 photo, He Jiankui is reflected in a glass panel as he works at a computer at a laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong province.

The Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China where He is an associate professor released a statement indicating the institution was unaware of He's research and that the scientist has been on unpaid leave since February of this year, circumstances that will continue through January 2021.

The Shenzhen Health and Family Planning Commission said it had not received an ethical assessment application for the study. He posted an ethical approval form for the process on his website.

He Jiankui (JEE-ahn-qway) of Shenzhen detailed the work that he said led to the births earlier this month of twin girls whose DNA he altered when they were conceived. He's actions are a clear ethics violation and tread into unknown territory. He told AP he was aware of the possible ramifications for future research.

"I feel a strong responsibility that it's not just to make a first, but also make it an example, how to perform things like this, consider morality of the society and consider its impact to the public", He told the AP in an exclusive interview.

Joyce Harper, professor in genetics and human embryology at University College London (UCL) said, "Today's report of genome editing human embryos for resistance to HIV is premature, unsafe and irresponsible". Although China prohibits human cloning, it does not specifically outlaw gene editing.

Revelations of the experiment were quickly met with criticism, both and home and overseas, although in China, the pushback was particularly sharp. He says he used the tool known as CRISPR to delete the embryos' CCR5 gene (C-C motif chemokine receptor 5), mutations in which are linked to resistance to HIV infection.

Annas also faulted He for conducting his research on "twins instead of one baby" and said scientists should "never endanger two children with a first of its kind experiment-but should do one and not add others until safety (and efficacy) are confirmed in the first". University officials said they had no knowledge of his research and had launched an investigation. "We still might have a glimmer of hope to close it before it's too late".

Prof He also said that the study had been submitted to a scientific journal for review, though he did not name the journal. "Modifying human embryos at this stage in our understanding of biology is clearly unethical", says Christopher Anderson, a bioengineering professor at UC Berkeley.

"What is wrong with replacing old humanity with a new humanity? That should be banned", He said in one of the videos.

Some scientists in Hong Kong for the summit think it could induce serious problems for a person's immune system, while others think people should not be overly scared because it would not affect the core genome.

"In the future, humans will create humans and the fatality rate will largely decrease; meanwhile there will be less resources and more competition". Did He know enough about the technology to ensure that the children would be healthy, or might they contract other deadly viruses?

One of the ethical guidelines involved in gene editing is restricting its use to only addressing medical needs which can not be effectively treated through other means. According to Feng Zhang, a molecular biologist from the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the results of the trials were not "handled in a transparent way".

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