Designer babies could be here earlier than anyone who is counted. A Chinese researcher who says he has created gene-edited children has crossed what most scientists regard as a forbidden line.
It is not clear whether the claim is true, and if so, how twin girls whose DNA messages are changed will pay when they grow.
There is widespread scientific agreement that DNA rewriting before birth – to prevent birth defects or to create a "designer" feature for babies – it is not yet safe to test out external laboratory experiments that do not cause human birth.
"Completely premature and profoundly unethical" is the US statement on biotech Henry Graham from Stanford University noted.
Investigator Sheng He Jiankai said that he replaced the embryos when his parents performed fertility treatments to change the gene so that it could create children with a rare peculiarity of people – the protection against future AIDS infections.
"This is probably the worst gene you chose" to test pregnancy, as it does not determine the disease that the children expected to get, said O. Shorkat Mitalipov, Oregon Health and Science University, who in his laboratory experiments investigates how to correct gene defects in the embryo .
"Where is the conviction that this mutation will now lead to resistance to HIV?" Mitalipov added. "He examines his hypothesis about infants."
WATCH: Chinese researcher says he helped create the world's first gene-edited children
Here are the questions and answers on Monday's requirements and gene-edit status:
What is Genealogy?
It is a technology that allows scientists to change the living DNA of DNA from plants, animals, even humans – more accurately than ever before. It's like a biodegradable and embedded program: an enzyme that acts as a molecular scissor, glued a gene section, allowing scientists to delete, correct or replace it.
How is it used?
Researchers regularly use gene-editing tools in laboratories to study diseases in cells or animals, and they repair crops and feed animals.
But human genetic editing is still very experimental. One of the first studies is an intravenous infusion of human-gene-editing components to combat devastating metabolic disease. Other researchers are developing ways for the gene to repair damaged cells and return them to repair patients with sickle cell and other disorders. But unlike Monday's announcement, none of these experiments has any effect on DNA in such a way that patients switch to their children.
What did a Chinese scientist do?
The researcher said that he used the CRISPR gene regimen to change the gene called CCR5 embryos during seven pairs during fertility treatment; one pregnancy occurred. It is believed that a specific mutation in this CCR5 gene produces some resistance to HIV, making it harder for the cells to enter the virus.
READ MORE: Chinese genetic editing slammed as unethical, dangerous
Modern drugs have made HIV a death sentence for controlled disease in most parts of the world, but He said he chose this gene because HIV is still a major problem in China.
But his statements have not been tested by external scientists, and there are questions about how the work was done.
Why is Monday's news so controversial?
Changes in sperm, ovum, or embryo genes mean that these changes can be passed on to future generations – people who are not able to agree to such changes. In addition, long-term negative effects may not be noticeable over the years.
In 2017, the US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said that laboratory studies to learn how to change embryos were ethical, but said they were not yet ready for pregnancy. The academy said that, if allowed, it should be preserved to treat or prevent serious illnesses without good alternatives.
This laboratory study is continued by Mitalipov and others.
However, critics have said that Monday's announcement opens the door to "designer babies."
"If this is not indisputable, other dishonest actors will soon offer rich genetic enhancements for older children," said Martiy Darnowski of the Center for Genetics and Society.
Watch: Dr. David Agus explains gene "fixation"
What happened to the babies?
No independent external user knows yet, which is partly why scientists are so frightened.
He, a Chinese scientist, said that one twin heart had replaced both copies of the intended gene, but the second one was only one modified. People with one mutation can still get HIV.
Scientists reviewing his claims said that the changes were not exactly consistent with natural CCR5 mutations and that the big question was whether the gene was altered in each cell.
The special method used is common in laboratory studies but there is no precise or sufficiently controlled embryos, said cell biologist Columbia University Dietrich Egli, who called it "essentially genomic vandalism."
What are the dangers?
The biggest problem: this accuracy or lack thereof. Unforeseen mutations can be harmful to health, not help.
OVERVIEW: Scientists first edit the human body in the body – but what are the risks?
Is Genetically Modifying Pregnancy Legal?
Where you live determines whether a person can carry out research on human embryos. US scientists can carry out laboratory embryo research with private funding rather than federal taxpayers' money. Any attempt by a pregnancy would require the Food and Drug Administration to authorize, which Congress currently bans even to consider such a request – a de facto ban.
Are there other ways to prevent inherited illness?
People undergoing fertility treatment that includes IVF can be embryos that are tested for deadly genetically modified gene mutations, such as Huntington's disease, and then only embryos that do not have such mutations are implanted. Also, some so-called mitochondrial disorders can be prevented using some maternal genetic material, and some of the donor's eggs, along with the sperm of the father.