Scientist defends 'world's first gene-edited babies'

World’s 1st Genetically Modified Babies? Chinese geneticist reveals another ‘potential’ gene-edited pregnancy

The scientists gathered in Hong Kong this week for an worldwide conference on gene editing, the ability to rewrite the code of life to try to correct or prevent diseases.

A scientist who upended a Hong Kong conference with his claim to have created the world's first genetically-edited babies cancelled a fresh talk and was heavily criticised by organisers on Thursday, who labelled him as irresponsible.

He Jiankui is due to join a panel discussion Wednesday and speak Thursday on developing moral principles and safety standards in human gene editing.

Gene editing could potentially help avoid heritable diseases by deleting or changing troublesome coding in embryos.

The move prompted a heated debate among the scientific community, with many raising concerns over the lack of verified data and the risks of exposing healthy embryos to gene editing.

Jiankui said on Monday that the twin sisters he created, named Lulu and Nana, would be resistant to HIV as the embryos were modified with advanced gene-editing tools.

He claims to have used the gene editing tool to bestow a trait that few people born naturally have, an ability to resist future infection with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.

The second potential pregnancy is in a very early stage and needs more time to be monitored to see if it will last, Mr He said.




Research institutions have also distanced themselves from He's work. "Progress over the last three years and the discussions at the current summit, . suggest that it is time to define a rigorous, responsible. pathway toward such trials", said Baltimore, a Nobel-prize winning US biologist. Scientists from across the globe lambasted He's experiment.

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 USA and Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

In a statement released Tuesday, the commission said that it had "immediately requested the Guangdong Provincial Health Commission to seriously investigate and verify" He's research.

Mr He said: "They need this protection since a vaccine is not available".

Mr Baltimore said: "I personally don't think that it was medically necessary".

The gene-edited twins matter reported by the media has brazenly violated Chinese laws and regulations and breached the science ethics bottom line, which is both shocking and unacceptable, Xu Nanping, vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, told Xinhua.

He, who said he was against gene enhancement, said eight couples were initially enrolled for his study while one dropped out.

More than 120 Chinese scientists signed a letter condemning the claim by He. "This is not just for this case, but for millions of children".

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