Scientist who claimed to create gene-edited CRISPR babies under investigation

Chinese researcher He Jiankui

He said he altered the genetic instructions in two human embryos to try to make them resistant to HIV infections.

He Jiankui, largely unknown until yesterday, is an associate professor at Shenzhen's Southern University of Science and Technology of China (南方科技大学 or SUSTC).

He announced on Monday that healthy twin sisters, named Lulu and Nana, had been born this month from embryos modified by his team to switch off an HIV-related gene, sparking a chorus of condemnation from around the world.

The researcher says he used a technology known as "CRISPR" to edit sections of the human genome, performing the procedure on embryonic humans. Expanding on his motivations in a YouTube video, He spoke about discrimination that HIV-positive people still face in China and many developing countries.

"Regardless of where it was conducted, this work as described in press reports violates scientific conduct guidelines and is inconsistent with ethical norms of the scientific community and Rice University", the school said in a statement.

If the claim is verified, genetic engineers have already likened the birth to that of the first baby born through IVF.

The Shenzhen Health and Family Planning Commission said it had not received an ethical assessment application for the study.

China's National Health Commission ordered an "immediate investigation" into the case on Monday, the official Xinhua news agency reported, while the Shenzhen hospital meant to have approved the research programme denied its involvement. The research was first detailed by MIT's Technology Review. In a statement, the university said it was unaware of his work, emphasizing that it was not conducted on campus. Unconventionally, he made the announcement at an worldwide gene editing conference and in interviews with the Associated Press. Over 120 Chinese scientists from leading research universities such as Peking University and Tsinghua University in China, Stanford in the United States, and Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology, and Research signed a joint statement condemning He's research."The project completely ignored the principles of biomedical ethics, conducting experiments on humans without proving it's safe", said Qiu Zilong, a neuroscience researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (中国科学) who penned the statement posted on social media platform, Weibo."We can only describe such behavior as insane".

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"I think this is justifiable", Church said.

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. Mainstream scientists have condemned the experiment, and universities and government groups are investigating. "It's extremely unfair to Chinese scientist who are diligent, innovative and defending the bottom line of scientific ethics".

A new statement issued by the university condemns the genetic modification if it indeed has been done.

"Conducting direct human experiments can only be described as insane", they said. "The embryos were healthy".

In recent years scientists have discovered a relatively easy way to edit genes, the strands of DNA that govern the body. Scientists have long searched for ways to block this pathway to protect people from HIV. One day, a guardian reveals to the students that they're clones, created for organ donations. Musunuru is a University of Pennsylvania gene editing expert and editor of a genetics journal.

But making changes in human DNA that could be passed down for generations has always been considered off-limits.

"If the gene is removed, it's significantly less likely that the person will get infected by HIV, but then it also makes it much more likely for the person to get West Nile Virus or to suffer a fatality in the case of flu infection".

"The patients were given a consent form that falsely stated this was an AIDS vaccine trial, and which conflated research with therapy by claiming they were "likely" to benefit", Charo said.

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