HONG KONG – A group of leading scientists has stated that it is still too soon to try to make permanent changes to DNA that can be inherited by future generations, as Chinese scholar claims to have done.
The scientists gathered in Hong Kong this week for an international conference on gene editing, the ability to rewrite the code of life to try to correct or prevent diseases.
Although the science holds a promise to help people already born, a statement issued Thursday by the 14-member conference leaders says it is irresponsible to try it on eggs, sperm or embryos because not enough is known about its risks or safety.
The conference was rocked by the Chinese researcher's claim to have helped make the world's first gene-edited babies, the twin girls he was born earlier this month. Conference leaders called for an independent investigation of the claim by He Jiankui of Shenzhen, who spoke to the group Wednesday as international criticism of his claim.
Several prominent scientists said the case showed a failure of the field to police itself and the need for more rigorous principles or regulations.
There are already some rules that should have prevented this, said Alta Charo, Wisconsin University of Lawyer and bioethhicist and conference organizer.
"I think the failure was his, not the scientific community," Charo said.
The three-day conference was sponsored by the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong, the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and U.S. National Academy of Medicine.
Marilyn Marchione can be followed at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP
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