China reportedly halts research on gene-edited babies

China reportedly halts research on gene-edited babies

China reportedly halts research on gene-edited babies

A Chinese scientist who stoked criticism over his claim that he had created the world's first genetically-edited babies faced mounting pressure Thursday as China ordered a halt to his scientific activities and warned he may have broken the law.

China's Science and Technology Department says his research, if true, is banned in China and deserves severe punishment.

Mr He, a researcher at the Southern University of Science and Technology in the city of Shenzhen, said the woman had given birth to twin girls, known as Lulu and Nana.

The university where He works also distanced itself - saying he had been on unpaid leave since February - and called his claims a "serious violation of academic ethics and norms".

"I feel more disturbed now", said David Liu of Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute, and inventor of a variation of the gene-editing tool.

Dr Baltimore said he didn't think that was medically necessary and that the conference committee would meet and issue a statement on Thursday about the future of the field.

The second pregnancy is in a very early stage and needs more time to be monitored to see if it will last, He said.

The case prompted a heated debate among the scientific community, with many raising concerns over the lack of verified data and the risks of exposing healthy embryos to gene editing. He said his research has been submitted to a scientific journal for review, without naming the publication, and apologized for the result leaking "unexpectedly".

He Jiankui - the Shenzhen-based scientist who shocked the world this week by claiming he had altered the genes of the embryos to make them resistant to HIV - said the study is on hold. All of the men had HIV and he wanted to try to protect the babies from it.

He explained that eight couples - comprised of HIV-positive fathers and HIV-negative mothers - had signed up voluntarily for the experiment; one couple later dropped out.

On Tuesday, China ordered a "thorough investigation" into the project, but as the Associated Press is reporting today, the government has now taken the added step of shutting down the work until further notice.

The conference moderator, Robin Lovell-Badge, said the summit organisers were unaware of the story until it broke this week.

The Stanford-educated researcher said the twins' DNA was modified using CRISPR, a technique which allows scientists to remove and replace a strand with pinpoint precision.

The union said the scientific and technological circles of China would, as always, stick to scientific and academic ethics and related global rules, and promote social development and human progress through innovative scientific research.

The scientists at the conference pressed He to prove that the couples taking part in the research were aware of all the risks involved. Deem said that comparing the gene editing to a vaccine "might be a layman's way of describing it", according to the AP. Both cause tremendous suffering, are hard to treat effectively, and in rare cases are certain to be passed to any biological children, says Harvard Medical School Dean George Daley, a stem cell scientist.

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