Published: Tue, November 27, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

'MONSTROUS' scientist 'makes world's first gene-edited babies' in HIV test

'MONSTROUS' scientist 'makes world's first gene-edited babies' in HIV test

"Not only do I see this as risky, but I am also deeply concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding this trial".

The newborn twin girls, who the researchers say are the first produced by their project to bestow immunity to HIV on an individual by editing their DNA, had a father with the disease and a mother without it, according to an Associated Press report that cites research-team leader He Jiankui.

He Jiankui said he changed the twin's DNA to resist an HIV infection to help couples affected by HIV during fertility treatments.

He told the AP he felt a strong responsibility "not just to make a first, but also to make an example" for future research.

"Society will decide what to do next".

The validity of the research, which was undertaken with US scientist Micheal Deem, is being questioned because Jianku chose to release his findings through the media and not through a peer-reviewed journal.

Leading researchers called Mr.

He said he chose embryo gene editing for HIV because these infections are a big problem in China.

"The application of editing here was not for that goal", he told The Times.

If He's claims are accurate, Annas wrote, then the academic violated "a growing medical-scientific consensus that gene editing not be used on human embryos to create a baby until much more is known about its safety (especially "off target" effects), how to obtain informed consent, and how to monitor any resulting children (and their children) for at least 3 generations (indeed, the Hong Kong conference is the second global one on the science and ethics of Human Genome Editing, designed especially to create an worldwide consensus)".

The identities of the twin girls born in China and their parents were kept secret for their privacy, Mr. "That should be banned", He said in one of the videos. "It should only be for serious unmet medical needs, and informed consent has to be in place".

The professor, who was educated at Stanford in the U.S. and works from a lab in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, said their DNA was modified using CRISPR, a technique which allows scientists to remove and replace a strand with pinpoint precision.

Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist at the University of California-Berkeley, is - with Mr. Zhang - one of the earlier discoverers of CRISPR.


Rice University has also opened an investigation into Michael Deem (a bioengineering professor at Rice and previous supervisor of He) and his possible role in the study.

At the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, which kicks off this week in Hong Kong, scientists were set to debate these issues.

Scientists are investigating the use of CRISPR-Cas9 as a treatment for many genetic diseases, such as muscular dystrophy and sickle cell anemia.

Researchers are working hard to make CRISPR editing ever more precise.

And, the statement said, the university was blindsided by He's announcement.

"No matter how well intentioned, this intervention is unsafe, unethical, and represents a perilous new moment in human history", he wrote in an e-mail. "I think they're thinking about enhancement ... about sort of bespoke babies that I don't think we, as a species, are quite ready for that ethically or safely".

He's experiment has received both support and backlash from worldwide academics.

He's unverified claim came on the eve of an global summit dedicated to discussing the emerging science and ethics around powerful tools that give scientists unprecedented potential to tweak traits and eliminate genetic diseases - but that have raised fears of "designer babies". Look back to the 1970s with Louise Brown. Church said in an email to NPR.

He called the scientific breakthrough "justifiable" and told The Associated Press that HIV presents "a major and growing public health threat".

Mr. He is expected to present his findings and the outline of his research trial Wednesday at the conference. It's not clear if the participants understood the true nature of the experiment, which was described as an "AIDS vaccine development" program.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary's Mr. Cole-Turner, who is also a United Church of Christ minister, said religious belief is generally in favor of medical technologies that heal and that if genetic editing is used to prevent disease, then the majority of religions would support it.

"We can't have a discussion if scientists are just going to barrel along and do what they want to do while the rest of us are sort of on the sidelines trying to have a conversation", she said.

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