Wed November 28, 2018 – 5:50
More than 100 researchers, most in China, have been condemned as "crazy" and unethical altered human genes after a geneticist claimed he had changed the genes of twin girls to create the first reborn babies.
In an open letter circulating online, researchers said that the use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to edit the genes of human embryos was risky, unwarranted and corrupted, and the development of the biomedical community in China.
In the video published online, scientist He Jiankui defended what he claims to have achieved saying he had performed the embryonic algorithm to protect the born children this month from infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
"The biomedical ethics assessment for this so-called research only exists in the name. Implementation of direct human experiments can only be described as crazy," the researchers said in his letter, a copy of which was published by the Chinese news website Paper.
"Pandora's box has been opened. We can still have a glimpse of hope to close it before it's too late," said 120 researchers in Chinese language.
Yang Zhengang, professor of Fudan University, said he signed the letter because re-editing was "very dangerous".
Dr Han, who talks to speak at a Human Resource Summit at the University of Hong Kong on Wednesday, did not respond to a request for comment. The South University of Science and Technology, where Dr He holds a professor, said that he had not been aware of the research project and that Dr Han had been in unemployment without pay since February.
China's National Health Commission said on Monday that it was "very concerned" and had ordered provincial health officials to "immediately investigate and clarify the issue".
The government's medical ethics committee in Shenzhen, southern China, said it was investigating the matter, like the Guangdong Provincial Health Commission, according to Southern Metropolis Daily, a state media outlet.
CRISPR-Cas9 is a technique that allows researchers to essentially cut and paste DNA, increasing the hope of genetic solutions for disease. However, there is also concern for its safety and ethics. REUTERS