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Chinese researcher claims world's first gene-edited babies

Chinese researcher claims world's first gene-edited babies

Posted November. 28, 2018 07:38,   

Updated November. 28, 2018 07:38


Controversy has been stirred up across China by the news that a scientist, reportedly, succeeded in designing a baby, whose genes are biologically edited. Chinese authorities ordered an investigation on the case. A university, which the scientist in question belongs, has denied any correlation with the controversial testing.

Chinese scientist He Jiankui argued on Monday that he manipulated genes by using gene editing technology so that they can become immune to AIDS. The measure was taken on embryos of seven married couples who received infertility treatment, one of which succeeded in giving birth to twin girls, according to the scientist. Editing genes cut some abnormal parts of genes or insert normal ones. However, it has been globally prohibited that genes in embryos are edited because the edited genes can be passed down to the next generations.

On the same day, 122 Chinese scientists announced their condemnation against Prof. He’s argument on Weibo, a Chinese version Twitter. They explained that gene editing is not a novel technology from a technological view. However, uncertainties still exist and the technology can lead to ethical issues and risks, according to the scientists. They expressed their strong opposition against such efforts to edit embryos’ genes without any strict ethical and safety considerations, citing that manipulated genes can affect the next generations genetically.

The Academic Council at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, where Prof. He belongs, said that he had been on unpaid leave since February. The university said that it had been unaware of the test in question as it was conducted outside the campus.

Wan-Jun Yun zeitung@donga.com