Science

Over 100 scientists say baby gene editing is ‘crazy’

Over 100 scientists say baby gene editing is ‘crazy’”

Revealing his work in Hong Kong yesterday ahead of a gene editing conference today, Mr He said: 'I feel a strong responsibility that it's not just to make a first but also make an example.

Twin girls were born a few weeks ago, purportedly protected from HIV when CRISPR disabled a gene that would otherwise allow HIV to enter their cells. There was no independent confirmation of He's work and he did not provide written documentation of his research.

"Our goal is to help ensure that human genome editing research be pursued responsibly", the committee said.

Regulators have been swift to condemn the experiment as unethical and unscientific. Such work is banned in most countries.

Gene editing on humans is banned in the USA, notes the report, because modifying genes and making changes in the DNA could possibly move from one generation to the next and there is an ever-present threat to the health of other genes as well.

In this October 9, 2018 photo, Zhou Xiaoqin, left, loads Cas9 protein and PCSK9 sgRNA molecules into a fine glass pipette as Qin Jinzhou watches at a laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong province. He claims he altered their DNA in a lab using a gene editing technique called CRISPR. "Society will decide what to do next" with the technology's ethical ramifications. Later, he returned to China and opened a lab at Southern University of Science and Technology of China in Shenzhen. South University of Science and Technology of China declared that it didn't know about the project at all and it condemned He's project for "seriously violating academic ethics and academic norms".

He did not name the journal and said his university was unaware of his study.

China's National Health Commission ordered an investigation into He's work on Monday.

In a pre-recorded video on the conference's website, biologist and chair of the global summit David Baltimore said: "We have never done anything that will change the genes of the human race, and we have never done anything that will have effects that will go on through the generations".

In this October 9, 2018 photo, a microplate containing embryos that have been injected with Cas9 protein and PCSK9 sgRNA is seen in a laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong province.

For six questions that remain regarding He's contentious claimed scientific breakthrough, including a look at He's next potential moves and the impact this could have on the genome-editing field as a whole, see a report from Nature. After the couples produced embryos through IVF, he used CRISPR to cut the CCR5 gene, disabling it in the hopes of making the embryos less vulnerable to HIV infection.

Last September, scientists at Sun Yat-sen University used an adapted version of gene-editing to correct a disease-causing mutation in human embryos. "All medical advances, gene editing or otherwise and particularly those that impact vulnerable populations, should be cautiously and thoughtfully tested, discussed openly with patients, physicians, scientists, and other community members, and implemented in an equitable way".

"Here you have a scientist changing the human race, and you have a YouTube video about it, with no [scientific] paper".

Julian Savulescu, a medical ethics expert at Britain's University of Oxford, agreed.

"If it's true as reported then it's an extremely premature and questionable experiment in creating genetically modified children", said Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.



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