Chinese scientist claims first gene-edited babies

Nov 27, 2018, 10:12 IST | Agencies

A US scientist said he took part in the work in China, but this kind of gene editing is banned in the United States because the DNA changes can pass to future generations and it risks harming other genes

Chinese scientist claims first gene-edited babies
An embryo receives a small dose of protein in a sperm injection microscope in a lab

A Chinese researcher claims that he helped make the world's first genetically edited babies — twin girls born this month whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life.

If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics. A US scientist said he took part in the work in China, but this kind of gene editing is banned in the United States because the DNA changes can pass to future generations and it risks harming other genes. Many scientists think it's too unsafe to try, and some denounced the Chinese report as human experimentation.

The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, said he altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments, with one pregnancy resulting thus far. He said his goal was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but to try to bestow a trait that few people naturally have an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the AIDS virus.

However, there is no independent confirmation of He's claim yet, and it has not been published in any journal. "I feel a strong responsibility that it's not just to make a first, but also make it an example," he said in an interview.

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