close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

Sci-Tech

AFP
November 26, 2018

China scientist claims world´s first gene-edited babies

Sci-Tech

AFP
Mon, Nov, 18

Hong Kong: A scientist in China claims to have created the world´s first genetically-edited babies, a move that would be a ground-breaking medical first but which has generated a barrage of criticism.

Chinese university professor He Jiankui posted a video on YouTube saying that the twin girls, born a few weeks ago, had had their DNA altered to prevent them from contracting HIV.

The professor, who was educated at Stanford in the US and works from a lab in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, said their DNA was modified using CRISPR, a technique which allows scientists to remove and replace a strand with pinpoint precision.

The development emerged Sunday in an article published by industry journal the MIT Technology Review, which referenced medical documents posted online by He´s research team to recruit couples for the experiments.

He´s video then went online, prompting a heated debate among the scientific community, including from experts who cast doubt over the claimed breakthrough, and others who decried it as a modern form of eugenics.

He said the babies, known as "Lulu" and "Nana" although they are not their real names, were born through regular IVF but using an egg which was specially modified before being inserted into the womb.

Gene editing is a potential fix for heritable diseases but it is extremely controversial because the changes would be passed down to future generations and could eventually affect the entire gene pool.

The MIT Technology Review warned "the technology is ethically charged".

The claims come ahead of a conference of world experts in Hong Kong this week, with He expected to speak on Wednesday and Thursday.

But there is as yet no independent verification of his claims, which have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal -- an omission that the scientist´s critics have seized on.