Chinese baby-gene editing scientist 'proud of his work'

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

He Jiankui, a Chinese researcher, speaks during the Human Genome Editing Conference in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018.

The work of a research team that claimed to have produced the world's first gene-edited babies is illegal and has been halted, the Chinese government said Thursday.

David Baltimore, chair of the organizing committee of the Hong Kong summit and 1975 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine, noted in his opening remarks on Tuesday that scientists can only do gene-editing experiments on human embryos for a maximum of 14 days to avoid the ethical complexity and complications that could arise from any prolonged research.

The MIT Technology Review warned that "the technology is ethically charged because changes to an embryo would be inherited by future generations and could eventually affect the entire gene pool".

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also weighed in, emphasizing in a Twitter post the need for "more than just laws" to ensure CRISPR-Cas9 and other gene-editing technologies aren't misused or abused.

He said the girls were conceived to try to help them resist possible future infection with the AIDS virus.

University professor He, based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, said the twin girls, born a few weeks ago, had their DNA altered to prevent them from contracting HIV.

Then came a surprising, second twist: He says his trial has resulted in "another potential pregnancy" of a genetically-edited human, though that pregnancy is in very early stages.

Despite the blowback, the beleaguered scientist continued to insist that he is "proud" of the experiment, which he funded himself.

People and institutions involved in the matter have "brazenly challenged the bottom line of scientific research ethics and desecrated the spirit of science", said Huai.

Deem said he was in China when the participants agreed to genetic editing, and said they understood the risks, according to The Associated Press.

According to the South China Morning Post, the letter was published on social media on late Monday and was signed by scientists at some of China's leading research universities, such as Peking University and Tsinghua, as well as overseas institutions, including Stanford in the United States and Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research. He said the fathers in all seven couples who participated in the project were HIV positive.

China's National Health Commission ordered an "immediate investigation" into the case, the official Xinhua news agency reported, while the Shenzhen hospital meant to have approved the research programme denied its involvement.

"I think the failure was his, not the scientific community", Mr Charo said.

He, who said he was against gene enhancement, said eight couples were initially enrolled for his study while one dropped out.

Chinese scientists have also condemned the work and the Southern University of Science and Technology, where He is on leave from his position as an associate professor, has announced an investigation.

More than 100 scientists, most in China, said in an open letter on Tuesday the use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to edit the genes of human embryos was risky and unjustified.

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