Chinese researcher claims first successful birth of gene-edited babies

A Chinese researcher claims he is the first to successfully create genetically-edited human babies, twin girls born this month, using the controversial gene-editing tool Crispr-CAS9 and drawing shock, awe and mixed reactions from the scientific community.

Researcher He Jiankui revealed his medical breakthrough in interviews with The Associated Press and select researchers ahead of a second annual summit on human genome editing in Hong Kong.

The twin girls were born from the only pregnancy of seven couples who had embryos altered during fertility treatments, the AP reported. The goal was to create children with an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV.

The organizing committee of the conference released a statement Monday confirming that it was informed of Mr. He’s claims, but was unaware if he followed protocols established by the consortium of researchers to protect the scientific integrity and ethics of such experimentation.

“Whether the clinical protocols that resulted in the births in China conformed with the guidance in these studies remains to be determined,” the statement read.

In 2017, an international committee convened by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of medicine drafted a report outlining procedures, including broad public input and necessity, that would safeguard experiments in gene-editing in humans. Researchers concluded that inheritable traits — gene editing sperm, eggs or embryos — should, at first, only be discussed for life-threatening diseases expected to be passed on.

Mr. He is expected to present his findings on Wednesday at the summit. The AP reported that his claims were unable to be independently verified and his results have yet to be submitted to a scholarly journal for a vetting process by other experts.



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