Chinese researcher says "proud" of gene editing twins

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By Maggie Fox

The Chinese researcher who surprised and scandalized the scientific world by claiming to have genetically edited a pair of binoculars, alone and without official permission, said Wednesday that he was proud of what he had done.

He Jiankui, from South China University of Science and Technology, presented some of the details of his work at a meeting on genome editing in Hong Kong. He added that the binoculars Lulu and Nana were healthy babies and that he thought that another patient might be pregnant with a genetically modified embryo.

Robin Lovell-Badge, professor of genetics and embryology at the Francis Crick Institute in London, left, and Dr. Matt Porteus, stem cell expert at Stanford University, posed questions at the conference.Bryan Michael Galvan

He said he was working to help people with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), but that he had suspended his work for now, while defending his methods. "For this specific case, I'm proud," he told a large audience at the meeting.

"Lulu and Nana are born normal and healthy."

This was the first evidence that the public had seen what he had done: genetically alter two early human embryos, then implant them into a woman, which brought them to term. He promised to publish his research in a scientific journal.

If that were true, it would be the first time that a human being was genetically altered in this way.

The complaint has angered and worried other field researchers, who said it was dangerous, irresponsible and unethical.

"It is deeply regrettable that the first apparent application of this powerful technique to the human germline has been achieved so irresponsibly," said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, in a blog post.

The meeting was intended to discuss the field of gene editing, which advances slowly and cautiously because of issues surrounding work, the risks it poses for unborn children who will be doing the same. subject of experiments and questions that it raises. for society as a whole.

Dr. David Baltimore, Nobel Laureate, Senior AIDS Researcher and Immunology Expert, described He as irresponsible. Baltimore, who supports a moratorium on editing human genes, said his experiment was medically unnecessary. "I do not think it's a transparent process. We only learned about it later, and we feel left out, "Baltimore told the Hong Kong meeting.

"It is impossible to exaggerate how irresponsible, unethical and dangerous it is. A thorough investigation will be needed to determine exactly what happened and if approvals were in place before the start of the experiment, "says Stem Cell Biologist Kathy Niakan of the Francis Crick Institute (UK) in a communicated.

Genome editing is a relatively new scientific technique that can be used to accurately modify the DNA of cells. A process called CRISPR-cas9 is the best-known tool for genome editing and promises to be a breakthrough compared to the less accurate methods currently used to genetically engineer cells, which often use a virus to insert a new DNA and may have unexpected results.

Genome editing, as opposed to genetic engineering, is intended to permanently alter the DNA of all cells in an organism. Scientists approach the issue with caution because of the risk of unintended consequences that could haunt not only the patient but also his offspring.

Most countries have laws or regulations totally banning experiments on human beings or making it very difficult to perform work.

He circumvented the moratorium imposed by the scientific community on his work. He stated that he was working outside the laboratories and procedures of his university, but officials from the Southern University of Science and Technology said that they were investigating.

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