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Gened babies claim raises new questions about safety: shots



There has been a backlash since Chinese scientist He Jiankui claimed he cut genes in embryos that became twin girls.

Anthony Wallace / AFP / Getty Images


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Anthony Wallace / AFP / Getty Images

There has been a backlash since Chinese scientist He Jiankui claimed he cut genes in embryos that became twin girls.

Anthony Wallace / AFP / Getty Images

Since a Chinese scientist shook the world by claiming he created two girls with gene editing, international outrage has only intensified.

"Everything that has come up in the last week is just one of the deep concerns of this unfortunate, misguided mishap of the most dramatic kind," says Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health. "It was shocking at the time, and a week later it's still shocking."

As researchers scrutinize the few details published by He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology of Shenzhen, China, it became clear that he had actually failed to accurately identify his genetic target to edit.

He was trying to change a gene that would protect girls from HIV. But in the best case, he may have protected only one twin from HIV, making her genes inadvertently superior to her sister. It is also possible that the genetic changes he made may not have protected a twin.

Perhaps more worryingly, his attempt to use the powerful CRISPR gene-editing tool appears to cause unintended mutations in her DNA that could damage her health. 19659012] Chinese scientist says he's the first to make genetically modified babies with CRISPR “/>

"I hope these two little girls are okay," says Collins. "No matter how unhappy and inappropriate it was that this happened, we all hope there are no bad consequences for them, it's hard to know right now."

It has become clearer that he has violated many of the rules for experimenting on humans.

It's far from clear. He made sure that the girls' parents really understood what he was doing with the embryos.

And he says he participated in the consent to conduct the experiment from the parents themselves. This involvement of the researcher is considered inadmissible in biomedical research. The Chinese scientist suggested to the parents that the study test an AIDS vaccine.

"Everything you would have hoped for would have been noticed in this situation, it seems to have been ignored," says Collins. "It was wrong in every way."

He claims he also started at least one more pregnancy with a genetically modified baby that was at a very early stage. It is not clear what happened with this pregnancy.

Even though he kept his experiment secret from the Chinese authorities, it has become clear that he had spent some time talking to some scientists in the US about his plans.

At least two scientists in California apparently knew what he was up to, including Mark DeWitt of the University of California, Berkeley.

Michael Deem, professor of biochemical and genetic physics and astronomy at Rice University, was allegedly present when he recruited couples for his experiment. Deems University examined.

"If there were people who knew he was crossing that line and not speaking and not alerting other authorities, that's unfortunate," says NIH's Collins.

Matthew Porteus, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, claims he had his plan approved in February. He Jiankui had studied at Stanford. "I got really angry at the time," says Porteus. "And he indefinitely gave him all the reasons why he should not do that."

"I falsely assumed that the person on the other side of the table had my very strong views on the recklessness of what he proposed to respect would do. And that would be enough to stop him, "says Porteus," Obviously it was not. "

Porteus says he wishes he had reported it to the Chinese authorities and hopes he will receive an appropriate sentence.

One of Porteus' colleagues, William Hurlbut, says that he liked the young scientist in a series of long conversations last year, but in October, Hurlbut was also alerted.

"I really admonished him, something like that and I am sad that it happened like that. I think it's tragic, "says Hurlbut," I think he hurt himself, his career. And I think he's in danger of endangering human patients. And I think he has put science back on. "

And Hurlbut, a physician and bioethicist, says that this is not the only reason he is terrified hastened ahead.

" We are the first species, and this is basically the first moment in which we are able to change human genetics so that we can grasp and perhaps direct the future of human evolution at a certain level. "Hurlbut says," This is a very significant moment, not just in human history, but in the entire life story. "

Some scientists say that the organizers of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Surgery [WP] wish in Hong Kong, which coincided with He's revelation in late November, he had taken a stronger stance.

The organizers of the summit condemned the creation of gene-edited embryos that became babies, but they rejected the demand for one Instead, the organizers advocated making plans for how scientists could safely and responsibly create more genetically-engineered babies to prevent terrible diseases.

"To point out that it's only a matter of time Before we decide to make these steps over a truly significant public natliche discussion, "says Collins. "There is still a possibility – I think a considerable possibility – that this debate will lead to the conclusion that this is a line we should not go beyond."

The organizers of the summit defend their position.

"Our summit This statement did not demand that this technology should be made available to people, but merely provided a path to responsible development for the jurisdictions where this is possible," says R. Alta Charo, professor for law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, who helped to organize the summit.

For some scientists, however, that was not far enough.

"I would have been safer if they had really come out and said that we really need a moratorium, at least for a few years," says Paul Knoepfler, professor of cell biology and human anatomy at the University of California, Davis. "I was disappointed that they were not stronger."

Stanford bioethicist Hank Greely also called the conclusion of the summit a "toneless message".

The World Health Organization (WHO) is forming a working group that seeks to develop international rules for gene editing.

But many scientists argue that it may not be possible to prevent another rogue scientist from trying too fast to make more genetically-modified babies.

In the meantime, the Chinese authorities are trying to decide what should The first scientist, who claimed to have created the first man-made man in the world. Although there were reports he had detained, his university denied this.


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