'MONSTROUS' scientist 'makes world's first gene-edited babies' in HIV test

Pablo Tucker
November 28, 2018

He, a professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, claims that his lab had been editing embryos' genetic codes for seven couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization.

Multiple investigations are being sought in the wake of reports that a Chinese laboratory facilitated the birth of twin girls whose genes had been edited to protect them against the HIV virus that causes AIDS. Expanding on his motivations in a YouTube video, He spoke about discrimination that HIV-positive people still face in China and many developing countries.

China's National Health Commission said it was "highly concerned" about the claims and ordered local health officials "to immediately investigate" He's activity.

Evangelical bioethicists have joined many of their secular peers in condemning research that reportedly led to the birth this month of the world's first genetically edited babies.

The hospital claimed to have approved Dr.

The Shenzhen Health and Family Planning Commission denounced the legitimacy of the hospital ethics committee and the review process that approved the application. According to Feng Zhang, a molecular biologist from the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the results of the trials were not "handled in a transparent way". The university where He works said he had been on unpaid leave since February and his research is a "serious violation of academic ethics and norms".

However, the university told media outlets He's work "seriously violated academic ethics and standards". He did not report to the school or the department of biology.

"It's a somber moment because gene editing is a technology of tremendous promise and potential", Fyodor Urnov, associate adjunct professor of genetics at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Washington Times. He refused to identify the parents or their location, and no scientific journal has independently verified his claims. Annas also asserted that He is "unqualified as a physicist to deal with patients, touch them, or get consent from them for a medical procedure (we don't know about the physicians involved, but on the surface, they seem to have acted unethically as well)".

Scientists discovered in recent years a new way to edit genes that make up a person's DNA throughout the body. It's not known if the pregnancy referred to was carried to term, is ongoing, or was terminated.

"But at face value, this research has moved forward to the clinic way ahead of all the ethical consensus that has been going on internationally", Rossant said Monday.

Qiu said that the Chinese government needed to strengthen its regulation of the area of research, saying that the existing regulation was not deterrent enough. "It's extremely unfair to Chinese scientist who are diligent, innovative and defending the bottom line of scientific ethics".

"Our goal is to help ensure that human genome editing research be pursued responsibly", the committee said.

Scientists outside of China have been equally critical of He's work warning that modifying healthy embryos in children was irresponsible.

He's unverified claim came on the eve of an worldwide summit dedicated to discussing the emerging science and ethics around powerful tools that give scientists unprecedented potential to tweak traits and eliminate genetic diseases - but that have raised fears of "designer babies".

"There are many effective ways to prevent HIV in healthy individuals: For example, protected sex. That should be banned", He said in one of the videos. My fear is that this has been rushed through without due consideration of the consequences, both for human health and for society.

"Why not view God working through CRISPR if we view God working through chemotherapy?" he said.

He also expressed outrage that the babies had been exposed to unnecessary risks.

CRISPR enables scientists to make very precise changes in DNA much more easily than before.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary's Mr. Cole-Turner, who is also a United Church of Christ minister, said religious belief is generally in favor of medical technologies that heal and that if genetic editing is used to prevent disease, then the majority of religions would support it.

China's state-run People's Daily published an online article about it on Monday but later removed the story.

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