American scientist under investigation into links with alleged genetic editing of Chinese twins


Rice University has begun an investigation into one of its teachers after reports surfaced that it is linked to the supposed genetic editing in China that resulted in the birth of two babies with altered DNA.

They announced the investigation on Monday after reports that Michael Deem, a professor of biochemical engineering and genetics, was involved in a case where genetic editing was performed on human embryos to alter a gene in ways that made it resistant to HIV .

The university said it "was not aware of this work" and that, to the best of its knowledge, work has not been done in the United States, where genetic editing of human embryos is illegal.

"Irrespective of where it was conducted, this work, as described in press reports, violates guidelines for scientific conduct and is inconsistent with the ethical standards of the scientific community and Rice University," the university said in a statement. "We began a thorough investigation of Dr. Deem's involvement in this research."

Deem said he was in China when participants agreed to the genetic editing and said they understood the risks, according to the Associated Press. Deem added that comparing gene editing to a vaccine "may be a layman's way of describing it," according to the AP.

The controversy is revolving around claims by Chinese professor He Jiankui that he has successfully altered the DNA of twin-daughter laboratory embryos by specifically altering a gene to prevent HIV infection.

The research has not yet been independently confirmed, nor has it been published in a peer-reviewed journal, which is the standard protocol for such medical developments.

He Jiankui's work is being investigated by his own school, the Southern China University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, according to The Associated Press.

Deem did not immediately return the request for comments from ABC News.


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