Chinese gene-edit baby claim arouses indignation

Scientists and bioethics experts responded with alarm, anger and alarm to the claim of a Chinese researcher that he helped to make the world the first genetically modified babies in the world.

He Jiankui from the Southern University of Science and Technology in China said he has modified the DNA of twin girls born earlier this month to try to resist possible future infections with the AIDS virus – a questionable goal ethical and scientific.

There is no independent confirmation of what He says he did, and it is not published in a journal where other experts can assess it.

He unveiled it on Monday in Hong Kong, where a gene editing conference is underway, and earlier in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press.

Response to the claim was fast and hard.

More than 100 scientists have signed a petition calling for a better overview of experiments for gene processing.

The university where he is based said that it hires experts to investigate, and says that the work is "seriously inconsistent with academic ethics and standards & # 39;

A spokesperson for He said he has been on leave since the beginning of this year, but he stays at the faculty and has a lab at the university.

Authorities in Shenzhen, the city where the He laboratory is located, have also initiated an investigation.

Gene editing is a way to rewrite DNA, the code of life, to try to deliver a missing gene that is needed or to eliminate a problem that causes problems. It has only recently been tried in adults to treat serious diseases.

Editing eggs, semen, or embryos is different because it makes permanent changes that can be passed on to future generations. The risks of it are unknown and leading scientists have requested a moratorium on their use, except in laboratory studies, until more has been learned.

Concerns have been expressed about how he says he went further and whether the participants really understood the potential risks and benefits before they signed up to try pregnancy with embryo embryos.

He says he started work in 2017, but he announced it earlier this month on a Chinese register of clinical trials alone.

The concerns about the secret have been exacerbated by the lack of evidence for his claims. He said that the parents involved refused to be identified or interviewed, and he would not say where they live or where the work was done.

Other experts even wonder whether the claim can be a fraud.

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