Published: Wed, November 28, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Claim of First Gene-Edited Babies Triggers Investigation

Claim of First Gene-Edited Babies Triggers Investigation

He Jiankui, who goes by "JK", studied at Rice and Stanford universities in the USA before returning to his homeland to open a lab at Southern University of Science and Technology of China in Shenzhen, where he also has two genetics companies.

He concluded his talk by mentioning plans to monitor the twins' health for the next 18 years.

They include Feng Zhang and Jennifer Doudna, inventors of a powerful but simple new tool called CRISPR-cas9 that reportedly was used on the Chinese babies during fertility treatments when they were conceived. The edit removes the doorway through which HIV enters the cell to infect people, He said in the video. Those babies were born earlier in November.

The hospital claimed to have approved Dr.

The Shenzhen Health and Family Planning Commission denounced the legitimacy of the hospital ethics committee and the review process that approved the application.

Without commenting directly on He's controversially claimed work, Baltimore said: "It is unfortunate that his work has not yet been peer-reviewed, and so there is not an independent analysis offered by experts".

The Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China where He is an associate professor released a statement indicating the institution was unaware of He's research and that the scientist has been on unpaid leave since February of this year, circumstances that will continue through January 2021.

Authorities in Shenzhen, the city where He's lab is situated, also launched an investigation. He did not report to the school or the department of biology.

But his university said it was a "serious violation of academic ethics and standards" and scientists around the world condemned it as monstrous and risky.

His claims, which have caused widespread outrage, have yet to be independently verified.

He also expressed outrage that the babies had been exposed to unnecessary risks.

As has been the case with many gene-editing efforts and research in the past, a huge portion of the medical and scientific research community is already condemning He's work (if it was indeed performed as he claims) as being far too risky an unethical. In the US, the process is only permitted for lab research. "It's not known if those pregnancies were terminated, carried to term, or are ongoing".

While there are no laws or regulations in China forbidding the creation of genome-edited children, such practice is widely condemned by the global scientific community.

He is now facing investigation by a local medical ethics board to see whether his experiment broke Chinese laws or regulations. The scientists also voiced concern the experiment could harm the reputation and development of China's biomedical community.

However, there were some who defended He's meddling with the human genome.

"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. Editing the DNA of healthy embryos to reduce the risk of contracting HIV is neither necessary nor appropriate.

Tsui Lap-chee, president of the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong, said if one gene is edited, it will affect others that interact with it.

"There are many effective ways to prevent HIV in healthy individuals: For example, protected sex". He said in the video. "The choice of the diseases that we heard discussions about earlier today are much more pressing" than trying to prevent HIV infection this way, Baltimore said.

Doudna and other researchers noted that genetically editing for HIV didn't solve an unmet need.

The human genome belongs to all of us.

So far the tool has only been used on adults to treat deadly diseases, and the changes only affected that person.

He recruited HIV-positive heterosexual couples who wanted to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, or IVF, to participate in the work through an AIDS advocacy group.

A Chinese biologist who stirred a storm of controversy over his move to edit the genes of human embryos did not show up at a Hong Kong seminar he had previously agreed to attend.

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