Chinese Scientist in Gene-Edited Babies Controversy Reveals Second Pregnancy

China stops work on gene-edited babies

The academy said it hopes the babies would grow up happy and healthy, both physically and psychologically, with "the most care possible that can be provided by society". However, his work has not been verified.

Leading scientists said there were now even more reasons to worry, and more questions than answers, after He's talk.

He Jiankui, an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, addressed a packed hall of around 700 people attending the Human Genome Editing Summit at the University of Hong Kong. A university spokesman said the professor had been on a break from teaching since early this year.

Mathew Porteus, a pediatric stem cell scientist at Stanford University, said that in February, He told Porteus about his animal studies and an open trial in humans.

He has spoken at the Human Genome Editing Summit at the University of Hong Kong for the first time about his work since the uproar.

The twin girls, identified by the aliases Lulu and Nana to hide their identities, were said to have been born a few weeks ago in a hospital in Shenzhen, southern China.

A total of eight volunteer couples with HIV-positive fathers and HIV-negative mothers had signed up to the clinical trial, with one dropping out before it was halted.

He added that he had submitted his research to a scientific journal for review and had not expected to be presenting it at the conference.

The girls had their genes edited so they could resist being infected with HIV, he said.

But he apologised that his research "was leaked unexpectedly".

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After He's findings were announced, the Chinese government ordered an "immediate investigation" into the incident.

Why is it this controversial?

It works by using "molecular scissors" to alter a very specific strand of DNA - either cutting it out, replacing it or tweaking it.

Couples were recruited through a Beijing based AIDS advocacy group: all male participants in his project had HIV and all of the women did not, but the editing was not aimed at preventing the risk of transmission, as males had infection deeply suppressed and there are other ways to keep their infection from infecting offspring other than altering genes: couples affected by HIV were offered a chance to have a child that might be protected from a similar fate of infection.

He's claims has set off a firestorm of skepticism and criticism.

"If true, this experiment is monstrous".

"Wouldn't it be useful to try to define a global ethical code of conduct, at least a minimum of consent and what is research is and what is the standard?" asked Barbel Friedrich, director of the Alfried Krupp Institute for Advanced Studies in Greifswald.

The first-of-its-kind experiment, which took advantage of the CRISPR gene-editing technique, came to light in reports published late Sunday by MIT Technology Review and The Associated Press.

Dr Xu had said earlier that Chinese regulations issued in 2003 permitted gene-editing experiments on embryos for research purposes, but only if they remained viable for no more than 14 days.

"The case, as media have reported, is a blatant violation of China's laws and regulations, and it breaks the bottom line of academic morality and ethics", Xu Nanping, vice-minister of science and technology, told state-run China Central Television.

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