Published: Sun, December 02, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Over 100 scientists say baby gene editing is ‘crazy’

Over 100 scientists say baby gene editing is ‘crazy’

Scientist He Jiankui looks at a computer screen while working at a lab in Shenzhen in southern China's Guandong province on Oct 10, 2018.

Professor He is expected to attend an global meeting in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

Reaction to the claim was swift and harsh.

"Gene editing itself is experimental and is still associated with off-target mutations, capable of causing genetic problems early and later in life, including the development of cancer", he told the BBC.

He's experiment "crossed the line of morality and ethics adhered to by the academic community and was shocking and unacceptable", Xu said.

The founder of an HIV support group reported to be based in Beijing said Thursday that he regretted introducing families to He for the trial, according to local media. He said he had initially paid for the research himself, then later from his university funding.

Chinese authorities has ordered the suspension of research activities of people involved in the controversial editing of human genes, calling such research illegal and unethical, official media reported on Thursday.

"Regardless of where it was conducted, this work as described in press reports violates scientific conduct guidelines and is inconsistent with ethical norms of the scientific community and Rice University", the school said in a statement.

"The events in Hong Kong this week clearly demonstrate the need for us to develop more specific standards and principles that can be agreed upon by the worldwide scientific community", NAS president Marcia McNutt and NAM president Victor Dzau wrote. It has only recently been tried in adults to treat serious diseases. Many scientists sharply criticized the news.

After Mr He's claims were broadcast globally, its inventor called for a moratorium on the use of the tool. Many scientists working in genetics say they believe such experimentation is unsafe.

The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, revealed the possible pregnancy as he made his first public comments about his controversial work at an worldwide conference in Hong Kong.

He defended his choice of HIV, rather than a fatal inherited disease, as a test case for gene editing, and insisted the girls could benefit from it. Both cause tremendous suffering, are hard to treat effectively, and in rare cases are certain to be passed to any biological children, says Harvard Medical School Dean George Daley, a stem cell scientist. A spokesperson for Harmonicare said the losses could be attributed to fears over new, stricter regulation from the Chinese government. "These children, and their children's children, have had their futures irrevocably changed without consent, ethical review or meaningful deliberation".

During the event He also announced an additional claim: "There is another one... another potential pregnancy".

Summit organisers said germline genome editing could become "acceptable" in future if rigorous criteria are met, but that there are too many scientific and technical uncertainties to permit clinical trials at this stage.

The secrecy concerns have been compounded by lack of proof for his claims.

The parents of the twin girls declined to be identified or interviewed, and there is no independent confirmation of his claims such as being published in a journal to be vetted by other experts.

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