A Chinese scientist has reported he’s created the world’s first gene-edited babies, an announcement that’s shocked the scientific community because it defies an unofficial international moratorium on editing human embryos intended for a pregnancy.
He Jiankui, a professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, is claiming to have used the revolutionary gene editing technology CRISPR to tweak the DNA of human embryos during in-vitro fertilization, resulting in the birth of twin girls several weeks ago.
The objective, He said, was to remove a gene called CCR5 so the girls might be resistant to potential infection with HIV/AIDS.
If the experiment’s results are confirmed by independent scientists, He would be the first scientist known to use CRISPR to edit human embryos resulting in a live birth.
He’s experiment, first reported by the MIT Technology Review and the AP on Sunday, has not been published in a scientific journal and the data have not been peer-reviewed.
He shared his findings with the media on Monday just before the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, and would not reveal the names of the parents or babies involved.
Researchers were calling for a “take it slow” approach on CRISPR in humans
The last several years in science have unleashed the CRISPR revolution. CRISPR-Cas9 — or CRISPR, as it’s known — is a tool that allows researchers to control which genes get expressed in plants, animals, and even humans; to delete undesirable traits and, potentially, add desirable traits; and to do all this more quickly, and with more precision, than ever before.
Even more fantastically, it’s at least theoretically possible to use CRISPR to hack the human species — to modify the genome to create resistance to or completely eliminate — chronic or infectious diseases.
But just because we may have the power to do something doesn’t mean we should.
And talking about what scientists should do with CRISPR was the point of the international summit at the National Academy of Sciences in 2015.
There, scientists from around the world met to discuss how society should proceed with this technology.
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