Scientist claiming gene-edited babies reports possible 2nd pregnancy

Dr He Jiankui speaking at a biomedical conference yesterday said the twin girls had their DNA altered to prevent them from contracting HIV
'An Experiment on Human Beings': Outrage as Chinese Researcher Claims to Change Babies' DNA
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30 November, 2018

"This leaked unexpectedly, taking away from the community before presenting in a scientific venue and without the peer review process engaged before this conference", Jiankui said while speaking at an global conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

A Chinese scientist who stoked criticism over his claim that he had created the world's first genetically-edited babies faced mounting pressure Thursday as China ordered a halt to his scientific activities and warned he may have broken the law.

He Jiankui has told detractors at a conference in Hong Kong he's proud of his work.

The main objection to He's supposed gene-editing of Nana and Lulu boils down to one simple fact: messing with a human's genes is incredibly unsafe and inhumane, mostly because we don't fully understand how it works.

In his talk, which detailed his research on editing a gene called CCR5 in human embryos, He said that the parents were given the option to exit the trial without implanting the gene-edited embryos, or to use non-edited embryos instead.

"For this specific case, I feel proud actually", He said at the second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, a gathering of genetics specialists from around the world.

Prof He confirmed the university was not aware, adding he had funded the experiment by himself. "I just didn't think he would push so imprudently", Hurlburt told the Guardian.

David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate and a leader of the conference, called Mr He's work "irresponsible", and said it showed the scientific community had failed to regulate itself.

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Mr He, a researcher at the Southern University of Science and Technology in the city of Shenzhen, said the woman had given birth to twin girls, known as Lulu and Nana.

China's science and technology vice minister, Xu Nanping, described He's behavior as "shocking and unacceptable" in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV. It has also violated the ethical bottom line that the academic community adheres to. He was scheduled to speak again at the conference on Thursday, but he left Hong Kong and through a spokesman sent a statement saying "I will remain in China, my home country, and cooperate fully with all inquiries about my work".

According to The Guardian, China's National Health Commission has ordered an investigation into He's claims, while the Shenzhen Health and Family Planning Commission has begun examining the ethics of the study.

He said that he had altered embryos for seven couples (all fathers carrying HIV) during fertility treatments.

Dr He, responding to questions from the audience, said: "The volunteers were informed of the risks posed by the existence of one potential off-target, and they made a decision to implant".

He said he is proud of what he did, and argued that scientists must use technology to help those who need it. The Southern China Morning Post reported that more than 120 Chinese scientists condemned the experiment as "crazy" and "unethical".

He reportedly worked with a volunteer couple in which the male partner was HIV positive.


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