World’s First Genetically Modified Babies Created, Chinese Scientists Claim

Jiankui He                  YouTube  The He Lab

Jiankui He YouTube The He Lab

Without commenting directly on He's controversially claimed work, Baltimore said: "It is unfortunate that his work has not yet been peer-reviewed, and so there is not an independent analysis offered by experts".

A BBC article describes this news as "dubious", but there's reason to believe the claims could be true. He explained how his team used CRISPR to edit out a gene, CCR5, to remove the receptors that bind with HIV, effectively preventing the disease from being transmitted.

Some in the science community said it is human experimentation. Immediately after the 2016 experiment, the scientists destroyed the embryos, saying more research will be required before modified embryos can be implanted in a mother's womb. It would be a significant step, and it's raised widespread ethical concerns among researchers. Some have called He's work illegal, but while human cloning is illegal in China, gene editing isn't. Editing particular sequences can change those messages, and CRISPR/Cas9 is the tool that can do that.

While AP did not specify what happened with the unused embryos, bioethicist Joy Riley, executive director of the Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture, told BP they presumably were destroyed or frozen, both morally problematic outcomes. Research suggests it also increases a person's chance of dying from influenza.

Doudna also cited the global consensus reached in 2015.

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. "Performing gene surgery is only permissible when the risks of the procedure are outweighed by a serious medical need". One of these couples recently gave birth to a set of twins. Without such documentation, it's impossible to verify whether the girls indeed showed successful CRISPR editing or not. He said there appeared to be no harm caused to other genes. "Who doesn't want to be smarter, live longer, be stronger and healthier?" one post said. Many scientists working in genetics say they believe such experimentation is unsafe.

It's not the usual way that reputable scientists announce their breakthroughs to the world, but on Monday, Jiankui He released a video proclaiming that he had produced the world's first human babies whose genomes were edited using the powerful technique called CRISPR.

Musunuru is a gene editing expert and editor of a genetics journal.

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He's employer, Southern University of Science and Technology, said in a statement that it was not informed about He's human gene-editing work and has opened an investigation.

On consent forms that the parents were asked to sign, He called his work "AIDS vaccine development", the AP reported, so it is not clear if the parents of the girls understood what he planned to do.

A notice from Shenzhen's medical ethics authority said that all medical organisations must establish an ethics review committee before undertaking biomedical research concerning humans, and the ethics board of the hospital involved had not completed its registration as required.

He received his PhD at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in Stephen Quake lab at Stanford University according to the site. We can take comfort in the widespread condemnation of He by his own university, colleagues, and academics in the field worldwide.

Nobel laureate David Baltimore said the work would "be considered irresponsible" because it did not meet criteria many scientists agreed on several years ago before gene editing could be considered.

A fascinating aspect of this alarming story is that He was not trying to cure a genetic disease. A particular mutation in that CCR5 gene is thought to confer some resistance to HIV by making it harder for that virus to enter cells.

Unfortunately, the brazen recklessness exhibited by He will now place a dark taint on that futuristic prospect. The news spread like wildfire and garnered huge criticism from scientists for meddling with embryos using technology.

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