Chinese scientist He Jiankui today defended the work that led to the birth first genetically modified children, a case with deep medical and ethical implications, which caused a strong rejection among the world scientific community. And he announced that there was a possible second pregnancy and that he would "stop" in his clinical trials.
Jiankui, a 34-year-old associate professor in the southern city of Shenzhen, revealed another possible pregnancy in his first public statements on controversial work at an international conference in Hong Kong.
I said it changed the DNA of two twins born earlier this month to try to secure their immunity against HIVThe scientific community has condemned the experiment, and universities and government groups are investigating the situation.
The second possible pregnancy is at a very early stage, and more time is needed to confirm whether it will continue, he said.
He Jiankui, a scientist who genetically engineered the embryos. (Bloomberg)
After talking, leading scientists have said this there are more reasons than ever to be afraid and more questions than answers. Conference Director an experiment called "irresponsible", noting that this was evidence that the scientific community was unable to self-regulate and avoid the first attempt to change DNA.
Changing DNA before or during conception is a very controversial problem, as changes can be inherited and can damage other genes. This practice is forbidden in some countries, including the United States, with the exception of laboratory research.
I defended her choice of HIV instead of a fatal congenital disease to try genetic editing, and insisted that the girls could benefit. "They need this protection because there is no vaccine," the researcher said. However, scientists have approved their approach.
At a medical conference held in Hong Kong on Wednesday in a crowded amphitheater, He Jiankui reiterated that it allowed the birth of twins whose DNA was modified to be resistant to the AIDS virus.
He also explained that the eight couples – all made up of a seropositive father and a serogant mother – volunteered for the test, but one of them was withdrawn.
"I'm sorry because the result has escaped unexpectedly," Jiankui said, referring to video footage released on Sunday in YouTube announcing the birth of the twins Lulu and Nana.
"Clinical trials are interrupted as they are present"said the scientist who runs the Shenzhen lab.
"This is a really unacceptable step"says Jennifer Doudna, a scientist at the University of California at Berkeley and one of the inventors of the CRISPR gene modification tool that she said she used." I am grateful that she has appeared today, but I do not think we have heard the answers. understand the motivation to do so. "
At this point there is no independent confirmation of the claim of Him who his scientific research has not yet published where they can be tested by experts. At the conference, he refused to answer many questions, including who paid for work, making sure the participants understood the potential risks and benefits, and why he kept his job secret until it was completed.
The regulators dove to condemn this experiment and name it unethical and unscientific,
The National Health Commission of China has ordered local officials in Guangdong province to investigate its activities, and the center for which it works, the University of Science and Technology in the South, is also studying what has happened.