Shenzhen, China – China suspended it. Jiankui, a scientist who claims to have released the world's first genetically modified babies, and now he is being punished after public disclosure of research, which many in the scientific community are judged to be irresponsible.
His work was “extremely disgusting in nature,” Xinhua Xin Nanping, the vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, told state news agency Xinhua on Thursday.
Xi said that he was genetically developing the DNA of twin girls so that they would not break down the HIV attack associated with scientific ethics, adding that the gene-editing of human embryos for reproduction purposes was "clearly forbidden" in China.
He admitted that he had already started a new pregnancy at the gene-editing conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday, although it was too early to tell whether she would go for a full term.
|The fetus receives a small dose of Cas9 protein and sgRNA PCSK9 in a microscope for sperm injection in a laboratory in Shenzhen [Mark Schiefelbein/AP]|
The source confirmed to Al-Jazeera that he returned to Shenzhen, although repeated calls to his mobile phone remained unanswered, and several messages sent to the phone were read unanswered.
David Siranoski of Nature magazine published on social networks that he was in the southern city and is ready to “fully cooperate with all requests” about his work.
The scientist is likely to face issues from institutions in Shenzhen, as well as from the Ministry of Science and Technology. China’s National Health Commission said its activities would be investigated and any violations “resolutely directed,” according to Xinhua.
It is not known what kind of punishment he may face, since the law in China is unclear regarding compliance, according to Qiu Renzon, honorary professor at the Institute of Philosophy and director of the Center for Applied Ethics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
His research has sent shock waves through the international scientific community, many of which are concerned about the lack of validated data and the risks of infection with healthy embryos for gene editing. Scientists have long been concerned about the consequences for humanity of such genetic engineering.
R Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, said that if he tried in the United States, it “would be a violation of public law” and would provide for “punishment” [that] are both civil and criminal "because of the allegations required by the Office of the Food and Drug Administration for human cells and research in the field of therapy where cells are drawn for pregnancy.
Qiu noted in Hunan Province in 2012, three researchers were detained and then fired along with three officials who approved the test of vitamin A fortified genetically modified rice in schoolchildren without their consent.
"Three scientists were disciplined, they were fired from their positions, and they could not apply for grants for a certain period of time, therefore [He’s case] it may be like this, "said Qiu Al Jazeera." I don’t think the police will be involved, but the ministries will discipline him. "
He said in a video released on Sunday — the same day the world learned about childbirth — that he used the CRISPR-cas9 tool to edit embryos to eliminate the possibility of infecting children from their father, who is infected with the virus.
Anthropologist Eben Kirksi remarked that CRISPR has become a magic word associated with HIV because of the promise that "you only need to undergo treatment once." But, he added, there were many other promising treatments for HIV, and he did not think that many in the HIV research community were “hoping” for genetic editing.
|Researcher Zhou Xiaoqin, on the left, loads Cas9 protein molecules and sgRNA PCSK9 molecules into a thin glass pipette in He Jiankui laboratory in Shenzhen [Mark Schiefelbein/AP]|
He gave partial apologies to the packed audience at the second International Human Genome Editing Summit in Hong Kong, although repentance seemed to be more for birth information that appeared before his research was verified by the scientific community, and not for its implementation.
The scientist told delegates that he was “proud” of his work, adding that if the same situation had occurred, and it was his child, he would “first try.”
Most other researchers thought that it was too early to move to this point, given the extensive ethical questions that arise from the fact that they were “edited” —for example, Lulu and Nana, the names He gave twin girls — and “unedited »People living on the side.
“Wouldn't it be inappropriate to try to define a global ethical code of conduct, at least minimal agreement and what is research, and what is standard?” Asked Barbel Friedrich, director of the Advanced Research Institute Alfried Krupp in Greifswald. "What we heard this morning was a violation of the law, which he recognized, but we need a global rule."
Institutions deny knowledge
Over the border in Shenzhen, institutions are distancing themselves from Him.
The Shenzhen Health and Family Planning Commission dispatched the city’s medical expert commission to investigate its activities.
The Southern University of Science and Technology, where he is an associate professor and is said to have conducted a study without full knowledge of the university, sealed his laboratory and suspended it until the investigation. The genome research website associated with his work now seems inaccessible.
|Researcher corrects a microplate containing embryos that were injected with Cas9 protein and PCGK9 sgRNA in a laboratory in Shenzhen [Mark Schiefelbein/AP]|
When Al-Jazeera visited a research lab located on an extensive campus at a university in northern Shenzhen, security officials refused to enter, complaining about the media trying to visit the site. School communications officials did not respond to requests to discuss the investigation of his research activities.
At the main gate, a police van stood on the road, its blue and red lights flashing.
The Shenzhen Harmonicare Women's and Children's Hospital, where fertilization allegedly took place, now denies participation in Haye’s work and said that he believes that the signature on the documents approving the experiment was falsified. Attempts to contact hospital officials for further explanation were unsuccessful.
“We still don’t know if it is fabricated,” Qiu said from the newspapers. "Some scientists, from other motives, these young scientists, they want to earn a lot of money."