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U.S. doctor warns against backlash to gene-edited baby claim

28 Novembre 2018

Meanwhile, those who supposedly were involved in approving an ethical review of the experiment that He Jiankui said he conducted are distancing themselves. "There are rumours of it happening in China".

Introducing heritable modifications into the gene pool for the treatment of disease is not necessarily wrong, but it would need to be justified by serious medical need, a good understanding of the risks and benefits, and a lack of any effective alternative treatment.

Hong Kong Executive Carrie Lam (C) and guests pose for a group photo during the International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, Nov. 27, 2018.

The claims come ahead of a conference of world experts in Hong Kong this week, with He expected to speak on Wednesday and Thursday.

The official Xinhua news agency said ethics could not be ignored.

"Our school will immediately hire authoritative experts to set up an independent committee to conduct in-depth investigations and publish relevant information after investigation", SUSTC said in the statement.

The particular method used is common in lab research but not precise or controlled enough for embryos, said Columbia University cell biologist Dietrich Egli, who called it "essentially genome vandalism".

"Grossly premature and deeply unethical", is how noted U.S. bioethicist Henry Greely of Stanford University characterised the claim.

The baby girls, identified as Lulu and Nana, were born prematurely in the past few weeks.

Feng Zhang, a molecular biologist at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the inventors of the Crispr technology, called for the results to be made public so the science community could examine He's work. Alternative viable approaches could have been used, Doudna explained.

Dr. Eric Topol, who heads the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, said, "We're dealing with the operating instructions of a human being". In China, however, only human cloning is outlawed, leaving a gray area when it comes to genetic editing. Deem also has stakes in both of He's companies. Chinese cities are pioneers in marshalling the potential of facial recognition and big data to police the behaviour of their citizens, down to issuing automated fines for offences like jaywalking. He revealed it Monday, Nov. 26, in Hong Kong to one of the organizers of an global conference on gene editing. In the medium term, they appear promising for the treatment of cancer and other deadly diseases, as well as for inherited ailments.

Tim Caulfield, a professor of health and law at the University of Alberta, said that while the advent of gene-editing is exciting, the use of the technology to reshape human DNA is "premature".

AP quoted a Pennsylvania scientist as stating He's research is "unconscionable" while a Seattle scientist told NPR that it has caused humanity to enter "the room with the word "designer baby" on the door". Researchers that reviewed materials He presented to the Associated Press said the results "so far are insufficient to prove the editing worked or to rule out harm", particularly for the baby with only one edited copy of the gene.

While the claim has yet to be independently confirmed, the goal of the research was to provide the children with an increased ability to resist potential future infections from HIV using an advanced technique known as CRISPR. "We still have a lot of work to do to prove and establish that the procedure is actually safe", Musunuru said. "The potential applications are also relatively risky if they get into the hands of people who don't have good judgment or have ill intent". The experiment showed that someday it might be possible to deliberately endow human DNA with this desirable mutation-the key word being "someday". Many researchers are interested in using the technology to eliminate or treat genetic diseases, as Business Insider has previously reported.

One recent example comes from the games industry. "It's extremely unfair to Chinese scientist who are diligent, innovative and defending the bottom line of scientific ethics". Whether it fits within China's regulatory environment is not clear.

Though critics of the technology may think rogue gene editing will spiral out of control now that Pandora's box has been opened, the strong and unanimous stance of the scientific community should indicate otherwise.

U.S. doctor warns against backlash to gene-edited baby claim