Beijing ordered an investigation into a Chinese scientist's claim that he had created the first genetically-regulated baby in the world, which would be the first in the first place, but who caused criticism.
A video posted on YouTube by university professor He Jiankui said that two girls, born a few weeks ago, changed their DNA to prevent them from working on HIV, which fueled a heated discussion among the scientific community.
While experts have cast doubt on the penetration claim, and others have agreed it as a modern form of eugenics, the Chinese National Health Commission has ordered a "direct investigation" in the case, an official Xinhua news agency reported early on Tuesday, citing a statement on the NHC- a.
A professor who has been trained at Stanford University in the United States and works in a laboratory in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, said the twins were modified by using CRISPR, a technique that allows scientists to remove and replace the chain precisely.
Development appeared on Sunday in an article published in the MIT Technology Review magazine, which reported medical documents published online at the He's Expert Team for Recruitment of Experiment Couples.
He said that babies, known as "Lulu" and "Nana", although not their real names, were born with regular IVF, but using eggs that were specifically modified before being inserted into the uterus.
"Immediately after sending her husband's sperm into her egg, the embryologist also sent to the CRISPR / Cas9 protein and instructions for carrying out a gene operation to protect girls from future HIV infections," he said.
Gene management is a potential fix for hereditary diseases, but it is extremely controversial, as changes would be passed on to future generations and eventually could affect the entire gene pool.
MIT Technology Review warns that "technology is ethically charged".
These pretensions come before a conference of world experts in Hong Kong this week, with the expectation that they will speak on Wednesday and Thursday.
However, there is still no independent verification of his claims, which were not published in a magazine that reviewed the magazine – an outrage that scientists criticized.
The research was critically criticized by Chinese scientists and institutions. The university he worked in, he said he was on unpaid leave since February, and his research is "a serious violation of academic ethics and norms".
"This research work was carried out by Professor He Jiankui outside the school," the South University of Science and Technology said in a statement on Monday.
Rice University in the United States has said that he will investigate the participation of physics professor Michael Deem. This kind of gene editing is banned in the United States, although Deem says he worked with He on a project in China.
"Regardless of where this happened, this work described in media reports violates the guidelines of scientific behavior and is inconsistent with the ethical standards of the scientific community and the University of Rice," the school said in a statement.
A joint statement by a group of 100 scientists from China criticized the findings and called for better state legislation.
"It is a big blow to the global reputation and development of biomedical research in China," said a statement posted on the social media platform Weibo.
"It's extremely unfair to the vast majority of Chinese scientists who are diligent in scientific research and innovation."
Other scientists around the world were also critical, and some said that YouTube video is an inadequate way of publishing scientific discoveries, while others warn that the exposure of healthy embryos and children to edit genes is irresponsible.
Professor Joyce Harper, a professor of genetics and human embryology at the London Laboratory of UCL, said: "Today's report on the human embryo edema for resistance to HIV is premature, dangerous and irresponsible."
An independent expert even questioned whether the claim could be a scam. Deem, a scientist of Rice who says he took part in the work, considered it ridiculous.
"Of course, the deal happened," Deem said. "I met my parents. I was there for the informed consent of my parents."
Agence France-Presse and Associated Press contributed to this report