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Scientists in China claim that the world's first babies who have edited the genes

Chinese university professor He Jiankui released a video on YouTube saying that his twins born several weeks ago had altered DNA to prevent them from making HIV

Published 10:45, November 26, 2018

Updated 22:45, 26 November 2018

HONG KONG, China – A scientist in China claims he has created the world's first genetically-regulated babies, a move that would be first in the first place, but which has provoked criticism.

Chinese university professor He Jiankui released a video on YouTube that said two girls, born a few weeks ago, changed their DNA to prevent them from working on HIV.

A professor, who was educated at Stanford University in the United States and working from a laboratory in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, said that their DNA was modified using CRISPR, a technique that allows scientists to remove and replace the link with precision precision.

Development appeared on Sunday, November 25, in an article published in the MIT Technology Review magazine, which reported medical documents published online at the He's Research Team for Engagement Couples for Experiments.

The video then went online, prompting a heated discussion among the scientific community, including experts who doubted the breakthrough, and others that abolished it as a modern form of eugenics.

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.

"Extremely problematic"

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.

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."

The issue of editing human DNA is very controversial and is only allowed in the US in laboratory research – although US scientists last year said that they have successfully edited genetic code for piglets to remove inactive viral infections.

But this is not the first time that Chinese researchers experimented with human embryo technology, and last September, scientists at Sun Yat-sen University used a customized version of gene editing to correct the mutation of the cause of the disease in human embryos.

There is also a history of fraud in the Chinese academic community – including a scandal last year that led to the withdrawal of 100 "compromised" academic works.

Jiankui did not immediately respond to a request for a comment from AFP.

Neither of the questionnaires was answered by the conference organizers in Hong Kong, and it is not clear whether they are aware of his work.

The biographer and chairman of the international summit, David Baltimore, said in a pre-recorded video at the conference: "We've never done anything that would change the genes of the human race, and we've never done anything that will have the effects that you will pass through generations." – Rapplercom

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