China halts scientist's controversial baby gene-editing project

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The twin announcements from the leading scientific body and Chinese authorities capped a dramatic week for the genomics world.

The Chinese government has stopped the gene editing works of Professor He Jiankui calling it unlawful and unethical. He did not indicate whether He was charged with any crimes. But based on news reports, he said, Dr He appeared to have "blatantly violated China's relevant laws and regulations" and broken "the bottom line of morality and ethics that the academic community adheres to", the state broadcaster China Central Television reported on Thursday. Conference leaders called for an independent investigation of the claim by He Jiankui of Shenzhen, who spoke to the group Wednesday as global criticism of his claim mounted.

Musunuru explains that even if gene editing worked perfectly people without normal CCR5 genes faces higher risks of getting other viruses such as West Nile and dying from the flu.

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Instead, it acknowledged that the field was moving toward a future where the procedures would be widely researched in clinical trials, and that researchers needed a rigorous framework to set ethical standards and guidelines.

CRISPR is a tool that can precisely cut-and-paste genes, allowing a part of DNA to be removed and replaced. The pregnancy was much like "regular IVF with one difference". The experts have said that he has been unduly experimenting with human embryos and used an unproven and a possibly unsafe technology on human embryos. He has been on leave from the university since February, and the school said in a statement it was unaware of his work in humans and condemned it. "Should such epic scientific misadventures proceed, a technology with enormous promise for prevention and treatment of disease will be overshadowed by justifiable public outrage, fear, and disgust". The scientist has sought for and received approval for this project from Shenzhen Harmonicare Women's and Children's Hospital, which was not one of the 4 hospitals that was provided embryos for his research or pregnancy attempts.

The news shocked the world and aroused widespread criticism, both for its ethics, technical flaws and the necessity of such a procedure to prevent AIDS. He said he had submitted his research to a scientific journal for review and had not expected to be presenting it at this conference.

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As you might imagine, this isn't what the organizers of the summit had in mind.

"I think the failure was his, not the scientific community", Mr Charo said.

At the last meeting of the summit in 2015, scientists concluded by saying that it would be "irresponsible" to proceed until the safety concerns had been thoroughly vetted and a societal consensus had developed.

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Summit organisers said germline genome editing could become "acceptable" in future if rigorous criteria are met, including "strict independent oversight". Also, there is continued wariness of CRISPR because the editing will affect the genes of successive generations. "As far as I know, there is no reliable or mature technology to conduct single cell whole genome sequencing", Wei said. Research in mice suggests that deleting CCR5 boosts visual and spatial memory, according to a 2016 study led by Alcino Silva of the University of California, Los Angeles. Prof. He said that the babies born were "normal and healthy" and would be monitored for the next 18 years.