A few days ago, Chinese researcher and now suspended university scientist He Jiankui revealed that he had conducted gene editing work on human embryos which eventually resulted in pregnancies that were carried to term.
Joyce Harper, professor in genetics and human embryology at University College London (UCL) said, "Today's report of genome editing human embryos for resistance to HIV is premature, unsafe and irresponsible". The medical necessity of the experiment was questioned, along with He's responsibility for the lives of the gene-edited children, and how the modification could change the gene pool of the human species in future generations. Many scientists condemned Jiankui's work, calling it unnecessary, given current preventative measures for HIV, smallpox, and cholera, and reckless, as gene-editing can cause off-target effects that are hard to predict and have significant developmental consequences.
Last September, scientists at Sun Yat-sen University used an adapted version of gene-editing to correct a disease-causing mutation in human embryos.
On Wednesday, He defended his research, telling scientists at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong he was proud of his work. He did not name the journal and said his university was unaware of his study.
He's claim would "be considered irresponsible", Baltimore said.
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"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". He also said that the parents were informed of the potential risks of the off-target edit.
The Guangdong province Health Commission announced on its website on Wednesday that it and Shenzhen city had set up a joint team to investigate the case.
The claims were "shocking and unacceptable" and breached "the bottom line of morality and ethics that the academic community adheres to", he told CCTV. He is now under investigation by his university, the Chinese government and the hospital he claims gave him ethical approval for the trial. Although his appearance had been previously scheduled, Lovell-Badge said He had earlier "sent me the slides he was going to show in this presentation and it didn't include anything that he is going to talk about today". Scientists can do gene editing research on discarded IVF embryos, as long as they are destroyed immediately afterwards and not used to make a baby.
More than 100 scientists, most in China, said in an open letter on Tuesday the use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to edit the genes of human embryos was risky, unjustified and harmed the reputation and development of the biomedical community in China.
The founder of an HIV support group, reported to be based in Beijing, said on Thursday that he regretted introducing families to He for the trial, according to local media.