China orders halt to gene editing after outcry over babies

Chinese scientist created human babies using gene editing resistant to HIV

He said the case showed "there has been a failure of self-regulation by the scientific community" and said the conference committee would meet and issue a statement on Thursday about the future of the field.

A prominent American scientist is warning against a backlash to the claim that a Chinese scientist has helped make the world's first gene-edited babies.

His work has not been independently verified, and Dr. Other scientists pointed to now available prophylactic treatments and antiretroviral drugs that can be effective in preventing HIV transmission and infection, saying the procedure was unnecessary.

China's National Health Commission ordered an "immediate investigation", the official Xinhua news agency reported, while the Shenzhen hospital meant to have approved the research denied its involvement. He says he used the gene-editing tool called CRISPR to delete a gene that makes people vulnerable to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Mr He said: "They need this protection since a vaccine is not available".

In a 30-minute talk Wednesday at a gene editing summit in Hong Kong, He Jiankui of South University of Science and Technology of China, in Shenzhen, laid out the steps he took to perform the first-ever editing of the human germline-cells that are passed on by reproduction.

Dr. He Jiankui, a USA -trained Chinese scientist, shocked the world by claiming on YouTube last week that the first-ever genetically edited human births had taken place.

"Even if the modifications are verified, the procedure was irresponsible and failed to conform with worldwide norms", the organizing committee of the Second global Summit on Human Genome Editing, being held in Hong Kong this week, said in a statement.

Chinese scientist created human babies using gene editing resistant to HIV
China defends creating world's first genetically edited babies

He explained that eight couples - comprised of HIV-positive fathers and HIV-negative mothers - had signed up voluntarily for the experiment; one couple later dropped out.

The ethical implications of modifying the genes of humans have been hotly debated for many years already, but the emergence of CRISPR gene editing technology has made it relatively easy for researchers to conduct such work if they so choose.

The Southern University of Science and Technology distanced itself from Dr He, saying he has been on unpaid leave since February and had "seriously violated academic ethics".

Irresponsible: After his presentation, He was quizzed by audience members about his work. Research in mice suggests that deleting CCR5 boosts visual and spatial memory, according to a 2016 study led by Alcino Silva of the University of California, Los Angeles. The procedure could give the babies the ability to resist future infections, the researcher said.

The conference moderator, Robin Lovell-Badge, said the summit organisers were unaware of the story until it broke this week.

CRISPR-Cas9 allows scientists to cut and paste DNA, raising hope of genetic fixes for disease.

U.S. biochemist Jennifer Doudna, who created the CRISPR method, said that if confirmed, He's work breaks the transparent approach of the scientific community and its use of the procedure, reported DPA news agency.

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