China orders cessation of work on modifying human genes
Chinese authorities ordered to suspend research on gene modification in children. This follows a recent statement by a Chinese researcher who admitted that he had used CRISPR gene-editing technology to make changes in the embryos of children who were born in early November.
The Chinese government has ordered a temporary halt to research work on human gene editingow. This is the result of a statement by scientist He Jiankui, whoory earlier this week reported that the first babies had been born in China, whichorych DNA has been modified using gene editing technologyoin CRISPR, by a team led by himoł scientistow.
"The nature of the incident is extremely unpleasant. The relevant authorities have been ordered to temporarily halt the research activities of the personnel responsible for the work" – reported China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, citing the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The head of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Xu Nanping, said that He’s actions are an „A clear violation of laws and regulations” in force in China and „violation of ethical and moral norms recognized by the academic community”. – We strongly oppose this. The Ministry of Science and Technology has already ordered relevant institutions to temporarily halt scientific activities related to this research – informed the minister.
The news of the girls’ birth was reported by the Associated Press, but its staff was unable to confirm the wordsoin the scientist in independent sourcesopits. The description of the work of the team of researchers led by He was also not published in any scientific journal, where it would have been checked by other expertsow. He, whoory was educated at universities in the United States, did not say where the modification of the gene was madeoin, and women whoore took part in the research, they preferred to remain anonymous and the scientist did not reveal their identities.
The organizers of the conference, prior to the start of ktorej He announced his revelations, condemned the work of the team of scientistsoin calling them "deeply disturbing and "irresponsible". „Even if the modifications are verified, the procedure was irresponsible and did not comply with international standards” – The organizing committee of the Second International Summit for the Promotion of Space Exploration wrote in a statement. Editing of the Human Genome, whichory was held this week in Hong Kong.
During the conference, He expressed pride in the achievements of the team of researchers he led, whoore led to the birth of dwoch girls called by He by the nicknames Lula and Nana. He also admitted that the research resulted in a second pregnancy, whichora is at a very early stage and it is unclear whether it will persist. He added that a description of the procedures used has been submitted for publication in a scientific journal, but did not specify exactly which ones involved.
In an interview with AP, He explained that the modification was aimed at eliminating the CCR5 gene. People lacking the gene are considered completely or largely immune to HIV infection. The modifications were carried out in embryos, through the process of in vitro fertilization, using a genetic engineering method discovered several years ago called CRISPR-Cas9. The edited embryos were then implanted in women, resulting in pregnancies and the birth of twins.
The information has sparked international protests over ethical issues and the very safety of such research. Many scientistsow believes it is too dangerous to use the CRISPR technique on humans. Any changes can be passed on to offspring. In addition, the CRISPR method itself can lead to hundreds of dangerous mutations in the genome.
Reacting to the reports were Chinese authorities, ktore at the request of the National Health Commission, have launched an investigation into the matter. Chinese media reported that the case is also being separately investigated by the medical ethics committee of Shenzhen city, where He is employed.
Shenzhen Southern University of Science and Technology has issued an official statement ktorm distances itself from the work of geneticist. The letter says that the geneticist has been on leave since February and has not been seen at the university since then. University authorities stressed that they were not aware of the research it was conducting.
„The Southern University of Science and Technology absolutely requires scientific research, ktore adhere to international ethical standards and comply with national laws and regulations” – reads the statement, in whichorym also shows a statement that the Academic Committee believes He seriously violates ethics and academic standards.
The reports have sparked controversy in academia around the world. Where someoers see a new form of medicine thatora eliminates genetic diseases, others see a new form of eugenics and a huge business of designing babies.
– It is an obscene experiment on humans, whichore morally or ethically indefensible,” said Dr. Kiran Musunuru, an expert on editing genow of the University of Pennsylvania. – It is far too early. We’re dealing with a human instruction manual. This is an important issue – wtorowaned colleague Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research.
Nearly 120 scientistsoin an open letter condemned He’s actions, calling them crazy and dangerous. „Pandora’s box has been opened. We still hope to shut it down before it’s too poźno” – scientists have written.
But there have also been other voices. One of the most well-known geneticistow, George Church of Harvard University, defended the prob Chinese researchers. As he acknowledged, the HIV virus is "A serious and growing public health threat". – I think it is justified – said about the reports from China.