Chinese scientist says a second pregnancy is underway

Faith Castro
November 28, 2018

However, he claimed that this edit was in an "intergenic" region of the genome - a stretch of DNA that doesn't code for any proteins. He revealed it Monday in Hong Kong where a gene editing conference is getting underway, and previously in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press.

The Guangdong province-based researcher said he used gene-editing tool CRISPR on embryos of seven different couples during IVF treatment, resulting in the birth of twin girls this month.

His work has not yet been independently confirmed or reviewed by other scientists, but if proven true, it crosses into a new frontier of medicine and ethics.

"Scientists who go rogue carry a deep, deep cost to the scientific community", Daley says.

On top of that already shaky foundation, TechCrunch now reports that the hospital He claims to have been working with during his gene editing adventure is denying any knowledge of his work.

"I think parents who really love their children will not use gene editing to increase their babies' intelligence, hair or eye color". It's banned in some countries including the United States.

The Chinese news website the Paper posted a copy of the statement online in which the scientists said, "Pandora's box has been opened".

So should we be anxious about the ethical concerns and the "possibility" of edited embryos and cloned humans?

CRISPR-Cas9 is a technology that allows scientists to essentially cut-and-paste DNA, raising hope of genetic fixes for disease.

But making changes in human DNA that could be passed down for generations has always been considered off-limits.

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Speaking to the AP, Dr Kiran Musunuru, a University of Pennsylvania gene editing expert, said in this particular child, "there really was nearly nothing to be gained in terms of protection against HIV and yet you're exposing that child to all the unknown safety risks", adding that the entire enterprise is "unconscionable" and "an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible". However, he said, the couple opted for the gene-edited embryos. "The biology department's academic commission holds that he has severely violated our academic ethics and principles", the university said.

Fyodor Urnov, associate director of Seattle's Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences, expressed "regret and concern over the fact that gene editing-a powerful and useful technique-was put to use in a setting where it was unnecessary", He called it a "hard-to-explain foray into human germ-line genetic engineering that may overshadow in the mind of the public a decade of progress in gene editing of adults and children to treat existing disease". When he saw He four or five weeks ago, He did not say he had tried or achieved pregnancy with edited embryos but "I strongly suspected" it, Hurlbut said.

The news spread like wildfire and garnered huge criticism from scientists for meddling with embryos using technology.

Qiu said it was highly hard to assess the risk-benefit ratio in such modification work for improving one's existing condition or for medical purposes, and added that such work should not be the priority of scientists.

Church told the AP that, when weighing the risks of using CRISPR against the public health threat of HIV, "I think this is justifiable".

He concluded his talk by mentioning plans to monitor the twins' health for the next 18 years.

"Before this procedure comes anywhere near clinical practice, we need years of work to show that meddling with the genome of the embryo is not going to cause harm to the future person", she said in a statement.

Zhang says causing a genetic adjustment may have additional unintended consequences - for example, in this instance, causing increased likelihood of contracting West Nile Virus or dying from the flu. In its statement, the university said it was unaware of He's project or its nature, and noted that the experiment was not conducted on its campus. The CCR5 gene enables HIV to enter and infect immune system cells.

He's research focuses on genome sequencing technology, bioinformatics and genome editing, according to his biography on the summit's website.

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