World’s ‘first genetically altered babies’ are born


"Using these technologies prematurely can really adversely impact the entire scientific field", Caulfield went on.

He is scheduled to speak at the summit on gene editing on Wednesday, but organizers were unsure whether he planned to discuss his experiment.

The Southern University of Science and Technology has distanced itself from the uproar, saying it had no knowledge of He's work, which was undertaken at a private hospital. He said the twins were born a few weeks ago, though the births have yet to be verified. One American researcher reportedly helped He in his work but that's far from the kind of peer-reviewed confirmation that most scientists seek. Many scientists working in genetics say they believe such experimentation is unsafe.

His announcement has clearly struck a nerve among many Chinese scientists.

Robin Lovell-Badge, group leader and head of the Division of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute, said "gene editing is not something to be scared about", and he doesn't think what He has done will affect a human's core genome.

In the US this kind of interference with human embryos is banned, because the implications of altered traits that are then passed on to future generations have not yet been studied.

Faced with a barrage of criticism, He defended his work.

He claims he used the tool to give their embryos the ability to resist possible future infection with the AIDS virus - a rare genetic trait that some humans actually do possess.

Chinese scientist He Jiankui has claimed to have gene-edited twin baby girls.

Speaking with the AP, Jiankui said that he felt a "strong responsibility that it's not just to make a first, but also make it an example", adding that "society will decide what to do next" whether it will be allowed or forbidden.

We argue that we can not allow individual scientists to decide the fate of the human genome.

"Grossly premature and deeply unethical", is how noted USA bioethicist Henry Greely of Stanford University characterised the claim.

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The Shenzhen school's academic board noted that the scientist had "seriously violated academic ethics and norms". The university says it wasn't aware of He's research and is investigating him. A university spokesman said the professor had been on a break from teaching since early this year.

On Tuesday, the commission told its provincial branch in Guangdong to investigate the matter and handle it according to laws and regulations.

A microplate containing embryos that have been injected with Cas9 protein is seen in a laboratory in Shenzhen.

We don't know if the participants understood the goal of the study.

AP via The Canadian Press Fred Gmitter, a geneticist at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center, holds citrus seedlings that are used for gene editing research at the University of Florida. The problem that many have with what He has done is that offspring down the road can inherit genetic modifications made to sperm, eggs, or embryos. In the US, the process is only permitted for lab research. In China, however, only human cloning is outlawed, leaving a gray area when it comes to genetic editing.

Kiran Musunuru, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, believes this was an attempt to engineer genetically modified human beings.

He wasn't trying to cure an existing disease, but rather remove the pathway through which HIV enters by instructing CRISPR-Cas9 to disable a gene called CCR5.

However, the Shenzhen commission said the hospital's ethics committee was not valid because the hospital did not register the committee's establishment with the commission as required.

"If true, this experiment is monstrous".

In a pre-recorded video on the conference's website, biologist and chair of the worldwide 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".

He called the scientific breakthrough "justifiable" and told The Associated Press that HIV presents "a major and growing public health threat". Hai Do was the editor.