Scientist Defends Gene Editing Babies As Trial Paused

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. Chinese scientist He Jiankui claims he

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. Chinese scientist He Jiankui claims he

He Jiankui addressed a crowd of fellow scientists Wednesday at a biomedical conference in Hong Kong, two days after he posted a video online claiming to have used a gene-editing technology dubbed CRISPR to alter the DNA of twin girls born to an HIV-positive father to prevent them from contracting the virus that causes AIDS.

Over 120 Chinese scientists from leading research universities such as Peking University and Tsinghua University in China, Stanford in the United States, and Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology, and Research signed a joint statement condemning He's research."The project completely ignored the principles of biomedical ethics, conducting experiments on humans without proving it's safe", said Qiu Zilong, a neuroscience researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (中国科学) who penned the statement posted on social media platform, Weibo."We can only describe such behavior as insane".

Scientists can do gene editing research on discarded IVF embryos, as long as they are destroyed immediately afterwards and not used to make a baby.

He said he chose embryo gene editing for HIV because these infections are a big problem in China. "I feel proud", He told a packed auditorium at the University of Hong Kong, whose skeptical listeners included scores of reporters as well as David Baltimore, chairman of the summit's organizing committee and the 1975 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine.

Last summer, researchers in OR announced that they had successfully altered genes in a human embryo for the first time in the United States.

But scientists and the Chinese Government denounced the work he said he carried out, and a hospital linked to his research suggested its ethical approval had been forged. He claims all of his tests of the girls showed they were completely healthy and normal.

He did not respond to a request for comment from AFP.

Amid repeated questions about the ethics and methodology of his experiment, He said he found volunteers through a social network of HIV carriers and explained, line by line and over 70 minutes, the implications of the study to seek their informed consent. There is tremendous suffering particularly in the developing world both from the disease and from the stigma surrounding it, he noted several times.

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Maddison's facility - which launched past year as part of the WSU functional genomics initiative with a focus of bringing gene editing into agriculture - serves the entire WSU system, helping anyone who wants to apply CRISPR gene editing into their scientific work.

George Daley says it would be unfortunate if a misstep with a first case led scientists and regulators to reject the good that could come from altering DNA to treat or prevent diseases.

"After yesterday, with the revelations of the births of gene-edited twins, I think the tide was largely negative and the prospect of anticipating ethical uses in the future was nearly set aside", Daley said. "If you had involved the Chinese authorities, they might have said you can't do it". "I think the vast majority of scientists are looking at this and going, 'Why?"

"The clinical trial was paused due to the current situation", he said.

Associate Professor He's research focuses on genome sequencing technology, bioinformatics and genome editing, according to his biography on the summit's website.

Editing CCR5 may also have an effect on the brain. Scientists have long searched for ways to block this pathway to protect people from HIV.

He also answered questions from gene experts Robin Lovell-Badge (Crick Institute) and Matt Porteus (Stanford), plus assembled audience members and the media. Lovell-Badge says he does not think He was aiming for genetic enhancement when editing the girls' genes, however.

In a statement released on Monday, SUSTC distanced itself from He, saying that the researcher had been on unpaid leave since February 1 and was not expected to return until January 2021. "I think it's very important that we move forward carefully and in a transparent manner". He stressed that Catholics do not need to automatically consider all gene editing to be problematic, but "need to be attentive to where the dangers are".

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