A Chinese researcher, who claims to have helped make the world's first genetically modified babies, says that a second pregnancy may be on the way.
Researcher, I Jiankui Shenzhen, pregnancy revealed on Wednesday, as he made his first public comments about his controversial work at an international conference in Hong Kong.
He claims he changed the DNA of twins born earlier this month to try to make them resistant to the AIDS virus. Leading scientists have condemned the experiment, and are studying universities and government groups.
The second pregnancy is at a very early stage, and she needs more time to observe to make sure she lasts, he said.
Leading scientists said that now there are more reasons to worry and more questions than answers after He speaks. The conference leader said the experiment was “irresponsible” and proved that the scientific community was not regulated to prevent premature efforts to change DNA.
DNA changes before or at the time of conception are very controversial, because changes can be inherited and can damage other genes. In some countries, including the United States, this is prohibited, with the exception of laboratory tests.
He defended his choice of HIV, not a fatal hereditary disease, as a test example for editing genes and insisted that girls could benefit from it.
“They need this protection because the vaccine is not available,” he said.
Scientists did not buy it.
“This is a truly unacceptable development,” said Jennifer Dudna, a scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, and one of the inventors of the tool for editing the CRISPR genes, which she said. “I am grateful that he appeared today, but I do not think we heard the answers. We still need to understand the motivation behind this. ”
“Now I feel more concerned,” said David Liu, from the Harvard Brod Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the inventor of the gene editing tool. “This is a terrible example of what is not connected with a promising technology that has great potential for society. I hope this never happens again. ”
There is no independent confirmation of his claim, and he has not yet been published in any scientific journal in which experts see him. At the conference, he refused or refused to answer many questions, including those who paid for his work, how he ensured that participants understood the potential risks and benefits, and why he kept his work secret until it was done.
After his speech, David Baltimore, a Nobel Prize winner at the California Institute of Technology and conference leader, said that his work "would still be considered irresponsible" because it does not meet the criteria that many scientists agreed several years ago to edit the gene. be considered
“I personally do not think it was medically necessary. The choice of diseases that we hear earlier in today's discussion is much more urgent than trying to prevent HIV infection in this way, he said.
If gene editing is ever allowed, many scientists have stated that it should be reserved for the treatment and prevention of serious hereditary disorders without good alternatives, such as sickle cell anemia and Huntington's disease. According to the researchers, HIV is not a suitable candidate because there are already safe ways to prevent transmission, and, if they are reduced, it can be controlled with drugs.
The case shows that "the scientific community has failed in self-regulation," and said that the conference committee will meet and make a statement on Thursday about the future of the area, Baltimore said.
Before speaking, Dr. George Daly, the dean of Harvard Medical School and one of the conference organizers, warned about not editing the gene because of his experiment. The fact that the first case was a false step “should in no case force us to stick our head in the sand and not take into account very, very positive aspects that may arise in a more responsible way,” said Daley. ,
“Scientists who are becoming dishonest … carry enormous value for the scientific community,” said Daly.
Shortly after his speech, he canceled a ghost scheduled for the fourth session of editing embryo genes, according to the Royal Society, one of the conference organizers.
Regulators quickly denounced the experiment as unethical and unscientific.
The National Health Commission ordered local officials in Guangdong to investigate the actions of His, and his employer, South China University of Science and Technology, is also investigating.
On Tuesday, Qiu Renzong from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences criticized the decision to allow him to speak at the conference and said that the statement “should not be on our agenda” until it is reviewed by independent experts. Whether he violated the law of reproductive medicine in China was not clear; Kwee says he did it, but he said: “The problem is that there is no penalty.”
National Institutes of Health UU. On Wednesday, they stated that there must be international intervention.
“Without such restrictions, the world will face a serious risk of a flood of equally ethical and unethical projects,” the agency said in a statement.
In the meantime, more American scholars have stated that they communicated with Him and knew or suspected what He was doing.
Dr. Matthew Porseus, a geneticist at Stanford University, where he conducted a post-doctoral study, said that in February he said that he intended to try to edit human genes. Porcius said he had discouraged him and told him, "that it is irresponsible, that he can risk the whole area of gene editing, making it arrogant."
Dr. William Hurlbut, a Stanford ethic, said he “spent many hours” talking to him during the past two years about situations where editing genes might be appropriate.
“I knew his first works. I knew where he was going, Hörlbut said, when he saw him four or five weeks ago, he didn’t say he tried or made a pregnancy with the embryos cut off, but “I suspected it,” Hörlbut said.
“I do not agree with the idea of leaving the general consensus of the scientific community,” said Hurlbut. If science is not considered sufficiently prepared or safe, "it will create misunderstandings, discord and mistrust."
Jennifer Dudna and David Liu are paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also supports the AP Department of Health and Science.