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China stops teamwork in genetically modified babies

Marilyn Marchione, The Associated Press

Posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2019, at noon. 7:30 EST

Last updated Thursday, 29 November 2019 at 10:00. 7:49 PM EST

Hong Kong – The Chinese government has suspended the work of a medical team on Thursday to claim that it has helped make the world's first gene-modified children, as the leading group of scientists said it was still too fast to try to make permanent changes to the DNA that can be inherited from next generations.

Vice Prime Minister Xu Nanping of China's Science and Technology Ministry told the CCTV public broadcaster that his ministry is firmly opposed to the efforts that were reported to have been caused by two women born at the beginning of this month. Xu called the team's actions unlawful and unacceptable and said that an investigation had been made, but it did not mention the concrete measures taken.

The researcher He Jiankui claims to have changed the twin DNA to try to make them resistant to AIDS virus infection. Major scientists have condemned the experiment, and universities and government groups are being explored.

His experiment "crossed the line of morality and ethics adhered to by the academic community, and was shocking and unacceptable," Xu said.

This week in Hong Kong, a leading team of scientists gathered for an international conference on genetic editing, the ability to rewrite living code to try to correct or prevent illness.

Although science is committed to helping those who are already born and initiate research, the tests that were issued on Thursday for the 14 conference leaders say it is irresponsible to try eggs, semen or embryos, with the exception of laboratory studies, because there is not enough known risk or safety.

The conference was shaken by a Chinese researcher's assertion that he helped make the world's first gene-edited children. The conference leader called for an independent review of the claim that he had spoken to the group on Wednesday as an international critic of his claim.

There is no independent confirmation of what he says he did. He was scheduled to speak again at a conference on Thursday, but he left Hong Kong and sent a statement with the representative office saying "I will stay in China, my home country, and fully cooperate with all my work investigations. The data will be made available for third-party reviews."

Several excellent scholars argued that this case showed that the field failed to regulate itself and that more stringent principles or rules were needed.

"It is not unreasonable to hope that the scientific community will follow the guidelines," said David Baltimore, Nobel Prize winner from the California Institute of Technology, who led the commission.

Alta Charo, a Wisconsin University lawyer and bioethics specialist and conference organizer, already has some rules that would have prevented what he says he did, said Alta Charo.

"I think the failure was his, not the scientific circle," Charo said.

In the future, genetic editing for reproductive purposes will be considered, "but only when medical needs are needed," with a clear picture of the risks and benefits and some other conditions, said Dr Victor Jau, President of the National Medical Academy. one of the conference sponsors.

"Failure to follow these guidelines would be an irresponsible act," he added.

Other three-day conference sponsors are the Hong Kong Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of the United Kingdom and the US National Academy of Sciences and the US National Academic Science.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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