Chinese scientist's claim of gene-edited babies 'extremely concerning'

The development emerged Sunday in an article published by industry journal

Recently, a Chinese scientist named He Jiankui claimed to have used the tool for creating the world's first genetically edited babies. Though the reports are unconfirmed, the announcement is sparking moral outrage from lay people and scientists alike.

He Jiankui, the scientist who led the effort, announced the outcome in a promotional video on YouTube Sunday, just days ahead of participating in an global conference on human genome editing scheduled to take place this week in Hong Kong.

Richard Hynes, a cancer researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge who co-chaired the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report that Doudna referred to, says it laid out "stringent conditions" that should be met before undertaking genome editing: There had to be a serious, unmet medical need; the effort should be well-monitored and with sufficient follow-up; and there had to be informed consent of the parents. Baltimore said the organizing committee did not know what He would talk about. This technique, which has been around since 2012, is well known to scientists versed in gene editing. Analysts and investors are preparing for a first look at some results from the pair's early-stage trial of their therapy in a blood disorder from the European study sometime next year.

In an e-mail, Annas voiced skepticism of He's claim but said there are a number of ethical concerns if the researcher is, in fact, telling the truth. He put a series of videos on YouTube to justify the experiment and explain how it was done.

The US and many European countries have heavily restricted the use of Crispr for the so-called germ-line editing - making changes that will impact the descendants of an original patient - that He claims to have performed in China. He worked with seven heterosexual couples in which the male partner was HIV positive and the women were HIV negative.

One couple has since had twin girls - one has both sets of genes altered while the other only had one gene altered. This technique is banned in the US, because it may cause unpredictable genetic defects in future generations. It's like a biological cut-and-paste program: An enzyme that acts like molecular scissors snips a section of a gene, allowing scientists to delete, fix or replace it. The human genome is a series of messages encoded by DNA.

The scientist at the centre of the controversy did not appear at the first day of the conference.

"Gene surgery is and should remain a technology for healing", He added. Or, with the help of scientists, specific messages can be inserted at this site which alter the message of that gene.

In this October 10, 2018 photo, He Jiankui speaks during an interview at a laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong province.

What was allegedly done in this experiment? The goal, he said in the interview, was to produce babies with the ability to resist HIV infection in the future by disabling CCR5, a gene that enables the virus to take hold. Using the new tool on sperm, eggs, or embryos means descendants will also inherit the changes. In this case, however, according to the video release, prior to implanting the embryo, Dr.

It's not clear if the claim is true and if so, how the twin girls whose DNA reportedly was altered will fare as they grow.

Gene editing is a potential fix for heritable diseases but it is extremely controversial because the changes would be passed down to future generations and could eventually affect the entire gene pool. The claim has yet to be independently confirmed, and the findings haven't been published to a peer-reviewed journal; outside experts haven't had an opportunity to corroborate the claims, or assess the efficacy or safety of the procedure.

Many scientists have stated that Dr.

"We can't have a discussion if scientists are just going to barrel along and do what they want to do while the rest of us are sort of on the sidelines trying to have a conversation", she said.

Yes, we may eventually use gene-editing to cure diseases and endow our species with new capacities-but such research can not happen at the whim of rogue scientists. "These are all kinds of. rumors at this point. but in terms of scientific and medical rationale, I don't think there is one".

"Although I appreciate the global threat posed by HIV, at this stage, the risks of editing embryos to knock out CCR5 seem to outweigh the potential benefits", Zhang said in a statement.

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