The Genetic Congressional Human Congress in Hong Kong, where Chinese scientist He Jiankui defended his experiment with viable human embryos, into which he modified his genes so that two AIDS resistant twins were born, closed with a declaration of conviction when considering “deeply disturbing” and “irresponsible” studies . The Chinese government ordered a paralysis of experiments that the researcher had already decided in the face of global conflict.
“Even if the changes were confirmed, this procedure was irresponsible and contradicted all international standards,” says the final decision of the organizing committee of the congress, which ended this week in Hong Kong.
The resolution calls for an independent evaluation of He Jiankui’s research, who claimed that he changed using the Crisp Cas9 technology a gene that uses the AIDS virus as a gateway to the immune system in two embryos fertilized in vitro and from which two girls were born. scientist, they are healthy. I also recognized a second fertilization with altered genes.
These studies were not opposed by any independent scholars or any institutions to which a geneticist is associated, or any ethical committee acknowledged that they were informed about the experiments established by the standards.
Last Monday, the unexpected announcement of the birth of two genetically modified children for the first time caused a big uproar in the international scientific community. He Jiankui appeared in a video posted online, in which he explained the experiment, which apparently was conducted in secret and without appropriate ethical and clinical requirements.
On Wednesday, during his first public appearance, as he showed that he successfully changed the DNA of two newborn twins – Nana and Lulu – at their embryonic stage, to make them resistant to infection with the AIDS virus, He was proud of his intended accomplishment, and he defended himself from criticism, recognizing that this may be “the only way to treat any disease.” But his speech did not convince part of the audience.
He was supposed to take part on Thursday in another congress group of experts, but finally canceled his appearance “by his own decision,” according to David Baltimore, the Nobel Prize for Medicine, one of the organizers of the summit of geneticists.
Numerous experts warn of the consequences that this modification may have on people in future generations. “By doing this, He changes the human gene pool, we cannot see the effect of this until several generations later,” said Dennis Luo Yuk-min, chairman of the chemical pathology department at Hong Kong University of China. He said that there is still no academic consensus to conduct such a human test.
However, the path to reaching this agreement may begin to take shape as a result of recent events. The congress organizing committee noted that, despite these difficulties and obvious risks, “the progress over the past three years and the discussions at this summit indicate that the time has come to define a strict and responsible path to such tests.”
On the other side of the Pacific, the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences and the US National Academy of Medicine, Marcia McNouth and Victor Dzau, also expressed their concern that “what happened in Hong Kong this week clearly demonstrates the need to develop more specific standards and principles that can be coordinated by the international scientific community. ”
But finding a consensus among scientists from different parts of the world is not an easy task. As Sarah Chan, an expert on bioethics, said today, “we cannot regard the international scientific community as a single and unified body, it’s a collection in which there is a lot of diversity”. For this reason, “we must be sensitive to different situations in different contexts,” not forgetting that this type of evidence — without transparency — “goes beyond what is acceptable.”
Expecting that these intentions would bear fruit, he paralyzed his experiments. The reason: the scandal that arose after the announcement, and the flow of criticism after the institutions and hospitals involved in the process refused to participate, and began an investigation to try to clarify the steps taken by the Chinese scientist.