PERSONAL NOTE: WOWOWOWOWOWOW! MANY FELLOW SCIENTISTS ARE AGAINST WHAT PROFESSOR HE JIANKUI DID IN CHINA…THE FIRST MAN to claim GENE EDITING OF TWO BABIES! What is the controversy about? Steve, usa, november 27, 2018 firstname.lastname@example.org blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com
Gene editing of babies sparks bioethics firestorm
By Chris Davis | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-11-28
2nd article below: China baby gene editing claim ‘dubious’
By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News online
A Chinese researcher is claiming that he has helped create the human race’s first genetically edited babies, The Associated Press reports exclusively.
And not everyone is cheering.
Scientists and bioethicists reacted with shock, outrage and alarm Monday to Southern University of Science and Technology of China researcher He Jiankui’s announcement that he had altered the DNA of twin girls born earlier this month to try to help them resist possible future infection with the AIDS virus.
While there is no independent confirmation that He did what he says he did — his work has not been published in a journal where other experts could review it — if it is true it would be a quantum leap in science, and ethics.
More than 100 scientists signed a petition calling for greater oversight on gene editing experiments.
“This is far too premature,” Dr. Eric Topol, who heads the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, told the AP. “We’re dealing with the operating instructions of a human being. It’s a big deal.”
The university where He is based said it will hire experts to investigate, saying the work “seriously violated academic ethics and standards”.
A spokesman for He said he has been on leave from teaching since early this year but remains on the faculty and has a lab at the university.
Authorities in Shenzhen, the city where He’s lab is situated, also launched an investigation.
He Jiankui studied at Rice and Stanford universities in the US before returning to his homeland to open a lab at Southern University in Shenzhen, where he also has two genetics companies.
The US scientist who worked with him on this project after He returned to China was physics and bioengineering professor Michael Deem, who was his adviser at Rice. Deem also holds what he called “a small stake” in — and is on the scientific advisory boards of — He’s two companies.
The Chinese researcher said he practiced editing mice, monkey and human embryos in the lab for several years and has applied for patents on his methods.
He said he chose embryo gene editing for HIV because these infections are a big problem in China. He sought to disable a gene called CCR5 that forms a protein doorway that allows HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to enter a cell.
Not all scientists condemned the procedure. Famed Harvard University geneticist George Church defended attempting gene editing for HIV, which he called “a major and growing public health threat”.
“I think this is justifiable,” Church said of the goal.
In recent years, scientists have discovered a relatively easy way to edit genes, the strands of DNA that govern the body. The tool, called CRISPR-cas9, makes it possible to operate on DNA to supply a needed gene or disable one that’s causing problems.
The inventors of the technology — Feng Zhang at MIT and Jennifer Doudna at UC Berkeley — weighed in on the controversy.
“Not only do I see this as risky, but I am also deeply concerned about the lack of transparency” around the work, Zhang told the AP.
Doudna said that He met with her Monday to tell her of his work, and that she and others plan to let He speak at a conference Wednesday as originally planned.
“None of the reported work has gone through the peer review process,” and the conference is aimed at hashing out important issues such as whether and when gene editing is appropriate, she said.
Harvard Medical School Dean Dr. George Daley said he worries about other scientists trying this in the absence of regulations or a ban.
“I would be concerned if this initial report opened the floodgates to broader practice,” Daley said.
Notre Dame Law School Professor O. Carter Snead, a former presidential adviser on bioethics, called the report “deeply troubling, if true”.
“No matter how well intentioned, this intervention is dangerous, unethical, and represents a perilous new moment in human history,” he wrote in an email. “These children, and their children’s children, have had their futures irrevocably changed without consent, ethical review or meaningful deliberation.”
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China baby gene editing claim ‘dubious’
By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News online
Significant doubts have emerged about claims from a Chinese scientist that he has helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies.
Prof He Jiankui says the twin girls, born a few weeks ago, had their DNA altered as embryos to prevent them from contracting HIV.
His claims, filmed by Associated Press, are unverified and have sparked outrage from other scientists, who have called the idea monstrous.
Such work is banned in most countries.
Gene editing could potentially help avoid heritable diseases by deleting or changing troublesome coding in embryos.
But experts worry meddling with the genome of an embryo could cause harm not only to the individual but also future generations that inherit these same changes.
And many countries, including the UK, have laws that prevent the use of genome editing in embryos for assisted reproduction in humans.
Scientists can do gene editing research on discarded IVF embryos, as long as they are destroyed immediately afterwards and not used to make a baby.
But Prof He, who was educated at Stanford in the US and works from a lab in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, says he used gene-editing tools to make two twin baby girls, known as “Lulu” and “Nana”.
In a video, he claims to have eliminated a gene called CCR5 to make the girls resistant to HIV should they ever come into contact with the virus.
He says his work is about creating children who would not suffer from diseases, rather than making designer babies with bespoke eye colour or a high IQ.
“I understand my work will be controversial – but I believe families need this technology and I’m willing to take the criticism for them,” he says in the video.
However, several organisations, including a hospital, linked to the claim have denied any involvement.
The Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen said it had been unaware of the research project and will now launch an investigation.
Media captionFergus Walsh: “CRISPR gene editing …. uses molecular scissors to cut both strands of DNA”
And other scientists say if the reports are true, Prof He has gone too far, experimenting on healthy embryos without justification.
Prof Robert Winston, Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies and Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College London, said: “If this is a false report, it is scientific misconduct and deeply irresponsible.
“If true, it is still scientific misconduct.”
Dr Dusko Ilic, an expert in stem cell science at King’s College London, said: “If this can be called ethical, then their perception of ethics is very different to the rest of the world’s.”
He argues that HIV is highly treatable and that if the infection is kept under control with drugs, then there is almost no risk of the parents passing it on to the baby anyway.
Prof Julian Savulescu, an expert in ethics at the University of Oxford, said: “If true, this experiment is monstrous. The embryos were healthy – no known diseases.
“Gene editing itself is experimental and is still associated with off-target mutations, capable of causing genetic problems early and later in life, including the development of cancer.
“This experiment exposes healthy normal children to risks of gene editing for no real necessary benefit.”
Scientists say baby gene editing may one day be justifiable, but that more checks and measures are needed before allowing it.
Dr Yalda Jamshidi, an expert in human genetics at St George’s, University of London, said: “We know very little about the long term effects, and most people would agree that experimentation on humans for an avoidable condition just to improve our knowledge is morally and ethically unacceptable.
“Whether the results stand up to scrutiny or not we need as a society to think hard and fast about when and where we are willing to take the risks that come with any new therapeutic treatment, particularly ones that could affect future generations.”