Chinese scientist pauses 'gene-edited baby' trial after outcry

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He, while attending a summit on human-genome editing in Hong Kong on Wednesday, said he was "proud" of his work and believed he was helping people with HIV - the twins' father is HIV positive.

China's National Health Commission has ordered an investigation into He Jiankui's experiment, which was condemned by the scientific community in China and overseas.

Then came a surprising, second twist: He says his trial has resulted in "another potential pregnancy" of a genetically-edited human, though that pregnancy is in very early stages. He Jiankui says he made the goals clear and informed them of risks and that this was never tried before; He also said he would provide insurance coverage for any child conceived through the project until they reach 18 and longer if they agree once they are adults.

Nicholas Evans, a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, told AFP news agency that He's decision to announce the groundbreaking work on YouTube "is a highly problematic form of scientific practice" that bypasses norms in the community, including peer review. Researchers have stressed that the risk of off-target effects (unintentionally changing other genes) and mosaicism (only altering the target gene in some of the child's cells rather than all of them) could lead to unexpected and harmful health effects such as cancer later in life.

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And Rice University in the United States said it will investigate the involvement of physics professor Michael Deem.

"In that child, there really was nearly nothing to be gained in terms of protection against HIV and yet you're exposing that child to all the unknown safety risks", Musunuru said.

"They need this protection since a vaccine is not available", He said.

He said gene editing would help protect the girls from infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. "I'm grateful that he appeared today, but I don't think that we heard answers. We can help earlier those people in need".

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"For this specific case, I feel proud actually", He said at the second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, a gathering of genetics specialists from around the world. "It's an appalling example of what not to do about a promising technology that has great potential to benefit society".

It's unclear whether participants fully understood the objective and potential risks and benefits.

A Chinese scientist who claimed he had edited babies' genes to resist HIV said the trial is being paused. "I personally don't think it was medically necessary". Many attendees said there were other ways to prevent the spread of HIV.

His statement has not been confirmed, but if true breaks tight rules around the use of gene editing in humans.

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Before He's talk, Dr. George Daley, Harvard Medical School's dean and one of the conference organizers, warned against a backlash to gene editing because of He's experiment. Both cause tremendous suffering, are hard to treat effectively, and in rare cases are certain to be passed to any biological children, says Harvard Medical School Dean George Daley, a stem cell scientist. Natural mutations to the gene, known as CCR5, affect up to 10% of the populations in northern European countries and can also confer immunity to HIV, the scientist said. However, despite the concerns of the professionals, a recent study suggested that the Chinese public is broadly in favor of using gene-editing for medical purposes based on an online survey conducted by Sun Yat-Sen University. And indeed, the consequences of this unethical experiment are already piling up.

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