Chinese scientist made world’s first genetically modified twins

Chinese scientist behind ‘gene-edited-babies’ claim pauses trial after public outcry

He Jiankui attends the International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong

The scientists gathered in Hong Kong this week for an worldwide conference on gene editing, the ability to rewrite the code of life to try to correct or prevent disease.

Jiankui He, the Chinese scientist who claims to have edited the genes of twin babies, spoke publicly about his research for the first time today (Nov. 28) in Hong Kong, at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing.

Later on, He Jiankui defended his work in front of a packed Hong Kong biomedical conference, saying he had successfully altered the DNA of twin girls born to an HIV-positive father, an apparent medical first.

Currently, each country has their own rules and regulations surrounding gene-editing.

In a video posted on Sunday, Professor He Jiankui from the Southern University of Science and Technology announced the birth of twin girls whose DNA had been allegedly edited to prevent the possibility of contracting HIV.

He was absent from the opening ceremony of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing held at the University of Hong Kong on Tuesday morning.

John Christodoulou, chair of genomic medicine at the University of Melbourne, said it seemed the research had "bypassed the usual ethical regulatory processes". "Progress over the last three years and the discussions at the current summit, . suggest that it is time to define a rigorous, responsible. pathway toward such trials", said Baltimore, a Nobel-prize winning USA biologist.

"It's extremely unfair to Chinese scientists who are diligent, innovative and defending the bottom line of scientific ethics", they wrote, adding that "directly experimenting on humans is nothing but insane".

Scientist He Jiankui attends the International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong
Scientist He Jiankui attends the International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong

The umbrella of 22 national-level associations said human gene editing "severely disturbed the order of scientific research and seriously damaged China's worldwide reputation in the life science field". It has also violated the ethical bottom line that the academic community adheres to.

China's National Health Commission ordered an "immediate investigation" into the case, the official Xinhua news agency reported, while the Shenzhen hospital meant to have approved the research programme denied its involvement.

He said Wednesday that all the couples involved in his study consented and directed people to his website, where he provided an example of the consent form, which described the study as an "AIDS vaccine development project".

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.

But after He's presentation, conference Chairman David Baltimore said the research was not medically necessary, as there are other treatments for HIV.

He said he is proud of what he did, and argued that scientists must use technology to help those who need it.

He, who said he was against gene enhancement, said eight couples were initially enrolled for his study while one dropped out.

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