SALT LAKE CITY – A prominent University of Utah researcher was shaken this week by a conference in Hong Kong, where a Chinese researcher crossed ethical boundaries when performing gene-editing experiments on human embryos.
He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen (China), at least three of these embryos have been successfully implanted, and two have been imprisoned until birth.
Dana Carroll, longtime U. The chairman of the biochemistry department and a member of the National Academy of Sciences attended the Second International Human Genome Summit and told Hong Kong's Deseret News that he was worried when he attended the Road to the summit learned from his research. [1
Charlie Ehlert, University of Utah Health
Carroll is concerned that the news could fundamentally change the global advances in gene editing research, which in most cases make ethical advances in combating many diseases and disorders.
Carroll, who led the US biochemistry division for 24 years, led his career in genomics research and is one of the pioneers whose work has led to the novel and a relatively new CRISPR-Cas9 Technique he uses his controversial research.
The method can be used to process virtually any plant or animal gene, and it works in two steps: First, a particular gene is located and then "excised". CRISPR, short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, was adapted from a special, virus-spiked DNA found in viruses. Cas9 is an enzyme that can break down DNA.
Scientists have developed the method, which is relatively simple to perform and very precise, to a point where they can localize, cut and replace a target gene to another gene.
While He's research has not yet been validated and allegedly carried out covertly, he claims that he used CRISPR-Cas9 to process a gene in 31 in vitro embryos to create a natural resistance to the HIV virus , According to He, seven different pairs were involved in the research, and three genetically engineered embryos were implanted in mothers, and one set of twins was already born from a mother to birth.
Charlie Ehlert, University of Utah Health  DR. Dana Carroll is a prominent genetic researcher, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and longtime chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Utah. Carroll attended a conference on gene processing in Hong Kong this week in which a Chinese researcher claimed that he had processed human embryos that were later arrested. Carroll has described the experiments as "shocking".
The couples who participated had fathers who are HIV-positive and mothers who are HIV-negative. Many critics of He's research have pointed out that parents with one or both partners who provide the virus for conception of an uninfected child currently have many non-genomic methods available.
Carroll said there was already a chance to do this kind of genetic engineering In a few years, clinical trials of somatic (non-reproductive) cell therapy are already taking place. He noted, however, that until then, the scientific community has been successful in self-regulating appropriate research pathways, especially in work that modifies so-called germ-line genes – those in sperm, eggs or embryos – that can be passed on for subsequent generations.
Germline gene editing concerns are innumerable and include inadequate knowledge of how altering a gene affects the function of other genes, and whether modification of a gene may be more resistant to a virus having higher susceptibility to other viruses and / or Cause infections.
Carroll was one of several scientists who reviewed a National Academy of Sciences report from 2017 that found that germ line editing was crossing an "ethically inviolate" line. The report reflected a clear stance as to whether the scientific knowledge base was sufficient to experiment with altering embryonic genes.
"He continued with his procedures because he knew we had no control over the technology."
Dana Carroll, University of Utah Researcher
"The processing of heritable germ line is not ready to be tried on people," it says in a summary of the report. "More research is needed before the appropriate risk and benefit standards for clinical trials can be met."
Carroll noted with dismay that a violation of the widely accepted protocols could have been unavoidable.
"I have been saying for some time that it is unavoidable that anyone would try to start a pregnancy with genome editing technology," said Carroll. "We have called for everyone working in this field to be involved Do not go that far. The shock of what Dr. He did is he did not pay attention to these admonitions.
"He proceeded with his procedures knowing that we were not in control of the technology."
On Thursday, the last day of the summit, the Chinese government ordered Hes's work to be discontinued. This was stated by a group of leading scientists who expressed Carroll's concerns. It is still too early to try to make permanent changes to the DNA that can be inherited by future generations.
Chinese Vice Minister of Science and Technology Xu Nanping told the state television channel CCTV that his ministry strictly contradicts efforts that allegedly spawned twin girls, earlier this month. Xu described the actions of the team as illegal and unacceptable and said that an investigation had been ordered, but did not mention specific measures.
Researchers are quickly learning how to manipulate DNA to combat such problems as HD, Tay-Sachs, and hereditary heart disease, performing legally permissible experiments on laboratory animals and petri dishes, without taking the final step in the birth of babies.
Now they are also worried about a backlash against their work.
"The alarmists, who claimed that scientists did not behave responsibly in the development of the next generation of gene processing, now have ammunition," said Kyle Orwig, a reproductive specialist at the University of Pittsburgh.
"We are afraid of: Unlegislative scientists – they are crazy people who would simply try without worrying about the consequences," said Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health & Science University, the experiments in the lab to repair genetic defects in human embryos.
If the outcry results in the current patchwork of rules on what can be studied and how, additional constraints are added, the field is "likely to be thrown back decades."
"While entering the stage at the Hong Kong Summit asking questions from colleagues, Carroll stated that the researcher was evasive when asked why he chose this questionable research line. "
" "I think the motivation there is very hard to fathom … and it was not at all coming up," said the US researcher.
As the fallout continues his research, Carroll said his concerns be double "." "I'm afraid of the fears that people will be surprised by the fact that they will have more rigorous research prohibitions than even using technology" said Carroll
"On the other hand, people will be close to the world who may think that the door has been opened (through He's research) and we can penetrate them."
At the conclusion of the Genome Editing Summit, the organizers issued a statement outright condemning his work and calling for an inquiry, but also outlined some suggestions for the next steps in the effort to build consensus on appropriate current research practices and a transitional and ethical path to future progress n to define.
"At this summit, we heard an unexpected and profoundly disturbing claim that human embryos were processed and implanted, resulting in pregnancy and the birth of twins," the organizer wrote. "We recommend an independent assessment to verify this allegation and to determine whether the alleged DNA modifications have occurred, and even if the modifications were reviewed, the procedure was irresponsible and did not conform to international standards."
"Deficiencies An inadequate medical procedure indication, a poorly designed trial protocol, non-compliance with ethical standards to protect the well-being of research topics, and lack of transparency in the development, review, and conduct of clinical procedures.
Post: Associated Press