Scientist behind gene editing claims second pregnancy under way

Chinese scientist behind 'gene-edited-babies' pauses clinical trial after public outcry but is 'proud' of his work

Chinese scientist behind 'gene-edited-babies' pauses clinical trial after public outcry but is 'proud' of his work

He Jiankui, an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, spoke on Wednesday at an worldwide conference on genome editing in Hong Kong.

A Chinese doctor who claims to have engineered the world's first successful birth of genetically modified humans said he was "proud" of the historic feat, despite widespread backlash from the medical and scientific communities.

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, risky and irresponsible".

Germline gene-editing refers to genetic changes in every cell, that will be passed on to 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.

He said gene editing would help protect the girls from HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

He, an associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, sent shock waves through the scientific community on Monday when he announced in a video posted online that two ostensibly healthy twin girls had been born this month from embryos altered to make them resistant to HIV.

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.

The researcher, He Jiankui, is now also being investigated by his university. "Progress over the last three years and the discussions at the current summit, . suggest that it is time to define a rigorous, responsible. pathway toward such trials", said Baltimore, a Nobel-prize winning US biologist.

Nobel prize-winning geneticist David Baltimore, who is taking part in the conference, described He's work as a failure of self-regulation among scientists. Scientists from across the globe lambasted He's experiment.

Southern University of Science and Technology said that it is unaware of the research project and is launching an investigation.

He's academic board said He had "seriously violated academic ethics and norms".

"The volunteers were informed of the risk posed by the existence of one potential off-target and they chose to implant", he said.

According to an Associated Press report, the doctor fertilised the embryos for seven couples through IVF treatments, and out of those seven pregnancies, only one has reportedly been successful.

Most mainstream scientists think it's too unsafe to try, and some denounced the Chinese report as human experimentation.

He called the team's actions illegal and unacceptable and said an investigation had been ordered to punish the researchers, but made no mention of specific actions taken. "This is not just for this case, but for millions of children".

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