Chinese authorities have launched an investigation into genetically modified children
On Monday, the world was abuzz with news of the birth of the first babies whose DNA has been modified using CRISPR gene editing technology. Chinese authorities have ordered an investigation into the case, and the university where He Jiankui – the author of the revelations – is employed has distanced itself from the geneticist’s work.
As reported by the Associated Press, geneticist He Jiankui admitted that he modified embryos dwoch girls, whoore born in early November. AP, however, failed to independently confirm the wordoin the scientist. The efforts of the team of researchers led by He have not been published in any scientific journal, where they would have been checked by other expertsow,
He, ktory previously worked at several universities in the United States, did not say where the modification of the genow. Women whoore participated in the research, preferred to remain anonymous and the researcher did not reveal their identities.
Chinese authorities reacted to the reports, ktore at the request of the National Health Commission, they opened an investigation into the matter. Chinese media reported that the case is also being separately investigated by the medical ethics committee of Shenzhen city, where He.
Shenzhen Southern University of Science and Technology issued an official statement in which theorym distances itself from the work of geneticists. The letter says that the geneticist has been on leave since February and has not been seen at the university since then. University authorities stressed that they were unaware of his research.
„Southern University of Science and Technology absolutely requires scientific research, whichore adhere to international ethical standards and comply with national laws and regulations” – reads the statement, in whichorym also states that the Academic Committee believes that He seriously violates academic ethics and standards.
He, in an interview with AP, said that his compositeoł edited a geneoin the embryo, in order to eliminate a gene called CCR5, whichory is linked to HIV. He said his goal was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but proba conferring a trait thatorą few people have naturally – the ability to resist possible future HIV infections.
In most of the countryothe world has strict regulations on the use of editing genow on human embryos, but not in China. Middle Kingdom bans human cloning, but experiments on gene modificationow conducted on embryos are allowed there. However, experiments on embryos, and leading to the birth of children with a modified gene are two rotangible things. Authorities in initiated proceedings mobinds to disagree on such research.
Many scientistsow believes that the use of the CRISPR technique on humans is too dangerous. Any changes can be passed on to offspring. In addition, the CRISPR method itself can lead to hundreds of dangerous mutations in the genome. It should also be mentioned that it is uncertain whether the parents realized what they were signing up for. In the application forms, published on the website of Shenzhen University, from ktorych university roalso cut itself off, the program was called HIV vaccine research.
Reports have sparked controversy in academia around the world. Where someoers see a new form of medicine thatora eliminates genetic diseases, others see a new form of eugenics and a huge business of designing babies.
– It’s an obscene experiment on humans, ktorego morally or ethically indefensible,” said Dr. Kiran Musunuru, an expert in gene editingoin from the University of Pennsylvania. – It’s way too early. We are dealing with the manual of human. This is an important issue – wtorated by colleague Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research.
Nearly 120 scientistsoin an open letter condemned He’s actions, calling them crazy and dangerous. „Pandora’s box has been opened. We still hope it can be shut down before it is too poSource” – wrote scientists.
But other voices have also emerged. One of the most well-known geneticistsow, George Church of Harvard University, defended the prob Chinese researchers. As he acknowledged, the HIV virus is "A serious and growing threat to public health". – I think this is justified – said about reports from China.
SourceoSource: Science Alert, The Guardian, fot. K. Hardy/Wellcome Collection