Health Care

Gene-edited baby claim by Chinese scientist sparks outrage

Gene-edited baby claim by Chinese scientist sparks outrage”

- A Chinese researcher claims to have genetically modified twin babies as embryos using an experimental procedure, and it's stirring up a controversial conversation about rewriting a person's DNA.

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. That presents its leaders with a dilemma: Whether to follow the U.S. and Europe in strictly regulating its application, or take a more hands-off approach, catalysing rapid innovation in a strategic industry at the cost of what could be serious risks to patients. Meanwhile, those who supposedly were involved in approving an ethical review of the experiment that He Jiankui said he conducted are distancing themselves. "There are rumours of it happening in China". This sort of gene editing is banned in the USA, though Deem said he worked with He on the project in China.

The claims come ahead of a conference of world experts in Hong Kong this week, with He expected to speak on Wednesday and Thursday.

If the claim is verified, genetic engineers have already likened the birth to that of the first baby born through IVF. "Our school will immediately hire authoritative experts to set up an independent committee to conduct in-depth investigations and publish relevant information after investigation", the statement noted.

"Shenzhen HarMoniCare Hospital will invite public-security organisations to participate in the investigations and pursue the legal responsibilities of the relevant individuals", Harmonicare said in the statement.

The Chinese scientist is under intense pressure to produce compelling evidence, and to show he complied with ethical standards.

"Two handsome little Chinese girls name Lulu and Nana came crying into the world as healthy as any other babies a few weeks ago". "There are so many ways to adequately, efficiently, and definitively protect yourself against HIV that the thought of editing the genes of an embryo to get to an effect that you could easily do in so many other ways in my mind is unethical". 'No clinical use should happen right now, until there is a broad societal discussion, ' Doudna said in an interview in Hong Kong. "All these questions need to be looked into when we hear what he's actually done", Hynes says. Deem also has stakes in both of He's companies. That's one of the reasons why researchers are concerned about the report. Chinese cities are pioneers in marshalling the potential of facial recognition and big data to police the behaviour of their citizens, down to issuing automated fines for offences like jaywalking. His team targeted a specific gene, CCR5, which plays a role in HIV's spread to healthy cells.

Zhang says causing a genetic adjustment may have additional unintended consequences - for example, in this instance, causing increased likelihood of contracting West Nile Virus or dying from the flu. If society treats gene editing like vaccinations, then could all embryos be edited to prevent as many diseases as possible?

This week, several Chinese institutions, including the university where He has served as an associate professor in biology, have disassociated themselves from his work. Heritable human genome editing poses a significant existential threat because changes may persist throughout the human population for generations, with unknown risks.

"I think this was irresponsible", Musunuru said. "The potential applications are also relatively unsafe if they get into the hands of people who don't have good judgment or have ill intent".

R. Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, told The Times in an email that human trials first must meet a laundry list of criteria to ensure that test subjects are safe and that results can be used to predict outcomes and generalize to the population.

"If true, this experiment is monstrous", he said.

More than 120 Chinese scientists signed a letter condemning the claim by He.

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