Gene-editing couples promised 'healthier and smarter babies'

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Dr. He had been scheduled to speak again at the conference on Thursday, but his talk was cancelled.

HONG KONG-Scientists and bioethics experts reacted with shock, anger and alarm on November 26 to a Chinese researcher's claim that he helped make the world's first genetically edited babies.

The ministry was also quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying: "The nature of this incident is extremely nasty, and relevant bodies have been ordered to temporarily halt the scientific research activities of relevant personnel".

Conference leaders called for an independent investigation of the claim by Mr He, of Shenzhen, who spoke to the group on Wednesday as global criticism of his claim mounted.

A spokesman for He said he has been on leave from teaching since early this year but remains on the faculty and has a lab at the university.


Upon questioning, He even dropped this bombshell: "There is another one, another potential pregnancy", suggesting that there could be a second pregnancy with gene-edited babies.

He's announcement of his embryo editing Monday sent a thunderbolt through the scientific world.

Regarding news related to the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing and the genetically-edited infants, please strictly use standard draft sources. He's conduct was unethical.

China has always been considered on the forefront of gene-editing technology, bankrolling expensive research projects and boasting less regulation in the field than Western nations.

Irresponsible: After his presentation, He was quizzed by audience members about his work. "When you balance the minimal benefit in terms of protection against HIV, compared to increased chance of dying from a fairly common infection like the flu, I don't think that works out on balance". "I don't think the police will be involved, but the ministries will discipline him".


"It is seemingly ethically problematic to find these so-called volunteers to do this experiment, because these are people of a more vulnerable group, they could be easily manipulated and affected", Au said, adding that he questioned whether the couples really understood the experiment and knew the risks.

"Scientists who go rogue ... it carries a deep, deep cost to the scientific community", Dr Daley added.

American biochemist David Liu, a co-inventor of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology that He said he used to alter the gene, said there was no unmet medical need for these girls.

There already are some rules that should have prevented what Dr He says he did, said Dr Alta Charo, a University of Wisconsin lawyer and bioethicist and a conference organiser.

To this development, the Director of Rice University, Doug Miller, said, "This research raises troubling scientific, legal and ethical questions and said the University had "no knowledge of this work". I hope this is a wake up call for everybody to recognize that while this technology is incredibly exciting, this is and important moment where we need to grapple with responsibility of managing this technology going forward". He said he had submitted his research to a scientific journal for review and had not expected to be presenting it at this conference.


The girls' father has HIV, but it is well controlled by medication, so they are at no greater chance of contracting the disease than any other child, says Kiran Musunuru, an associate professor and regenerative biology expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

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