Crossing the Line: China Orders Halt to Controversial Work on Gene-Edited Babies

Crossing the Line: China Orders Halt to Controversial Work on Gene-Edited Babies
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Just days after a Chinese scientist announced the birth of the world’s first gene-edited babies and a possible 2nd pregnancy, the Chinese government ordered a halt to the highly controversial experiments.

According to Chinese Vice Minister of Science and Technology Xu Nanping, an investigation has also been ordered into the research that led to the birth of twin girls in November, 2018. Just a week prior, researcher He Jiankui claimed to have altered the DNA of the twins in an attempt to make them resistant to HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.

Nanping said Jiankui’s research “crossed the line of morality and ethics adhered to by the academic community and was shocking and unacceptable.”

As soon as Jiankui announced the twins’ birth at a conference on gene-editing in Hong Kong, scientists around the world immediately condemned the research.

In a statement, the 14 leaders of the conference called Jiankui’s attempts to genetically alter sperm, eggs, or embryos “irresponsible,” except in the case of lab research, because the gene-editing technology Jiankui used, CRISPR-Cas9, is still new and not much is known about its risks or safety.

Furthermore, the conference leaders called for independent confirmation of Jiankui’s claim.

So far, no one has even seen a photo of the girls, who Jiankui claims are named Lulu and Nana. [2]

Through a spokesperson, Jiankui said that he plans to fully cooperate with the investigation and will make his raw data available for 3rd-party review. However, he claims that the twins’ parents wish to remain anonymous. [1] [2]

Read: Scientists Use CRISPR to Edit Human Embryos in U.S. for First Time

Professor Julian Savulescu, from the University of Oxford, said: [2]

“If true, this experiment is monstrous. These babies are genetic guinea pigs. The experiment exposes healthy, normal children to risks of gene-editing for no real necessary benefit.”

Dr. Sarah Chan, from the University of Edinburgh, called the experiment “despicable.”

And while Jankui says he is proud of his work, the Shenzhen hospital where the experiment supposedly took place denies that the work occurred there.

In the end, the whole thing could be one giant hoax.


[1] HealthDay

[2] The Sun