Published: Thu, November 29, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Chinese geneticist reveals another 'potential' gene-edited pregnancy

Chinese geneticist reveals another 'potential' gene-edited pregnancy

He Jiankui, an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, addressed a packed hall of around 700 people attending the Human Genome Editing Summit at the University of Hong Kong.

He claimed earlier this week that twin girls had been born in China this month from two embryos he and a team of researchers had altered to protect them against HIV.

Leading scientists said there are now even more reasons to worry, and more questions than answers, after He's talk.

The work is highly controversial because the changes can be passed to future generations and could harm other genes.

Nobel laureate David Baltimore said Wednesday the work of the scientist who made the claim would "be considered irresponsible" because it did not meet criteria many scientists agreed on several years ago before gene editing could be considered. CRISPR technology has only recently been used to treat deadly diseases in adults, and limited experiments have been performed on animals. "But we didn't ask them to tell us ahead of time what they are going to talk about", said Baltimore, who added that there was no moratorium on gene-altering, but there were some guidelines published by the US National Academy of Sciences.

He showed data indicating that he had not detected unintended genetic changes caused by CRISPR/Cas-9, the gene-editing tool that he used - although it remains to be seen whether outside scientists will find the evidence convincing.

It's certainly not the last we'll hear from He, however. He warned of dangers if the scientific community were to "stick our heads in the sand" and ignore the potential benefit of the technology to eliminate diseases. "I hope it never happens again".

The consent form mentions multiple risks, but there is little detail on potential complications of the gene-editing process itself, including for the child.

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Organisers of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing also said they had not known about He's work. I personally don't think that it's medically necessary.

But former Chinese health ministry official Qiu Renzong said lax regulations in China mean that scientists who break the rules often face no punishment. The scientific world has been abuzz over He's announcement that he had rewritten the very blueprint of life, saying that ethical standards must be upheld. The genetic father is said to be HIV-positive.

Keynote speakers were mobbed by the press on the opening day, after the conference drew global attention on the back of the gene baby revelations.

Gene editing may be morally legitimate, DiCamillo said, when used for "a directly therapeutic objective for a particular patient in question and if we're sure we're going to limit whatever changes to this person". At that stage, a CRISPR/Cas9 protein with gene editing instructions was introduced to amend the embryo DNA, and those embryos were subsequently implanted in the mother. Dr.

Regulators have been swift to condemn the experiment as unethical and unscientific. He is employed, stated that the professor has been on unpaid leave since February 1, 2018, thus the research involved with the twins was not affiliated with the school.

He's university has disavowed his research, saying in a statement that it was "deeply shocked" and accusing He of "seriously [violating] academic ethics and codes of conduct".

One of the ethical guidelines involved in gene editing is restricting its use to only addressing medical needs which can not be effectively treated through other means. "And I know my work can be controversial, but I believe some families need the technology".

"I cannot find a scientific rationale to do this, other than the proof of concept that you could modify the embryo and bring it to term", Henrich said. Embryos from seven couples were altered using CRISPR-Cas9, resulting in one twin pregnancy, He told the AP.

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