Chinese scientist would have created the world's first genetically modified baby



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Controversy and doubts, that is the reaction to the announcement that a scientist would have created the world's first genetically modified babies to be resistant The certain diseases, using the technical in genetic editing Crispr.

The controversy began when specialized publications such as the American magazine MIT Technology Review echoed the study of the scientist He Jiankui, who started broadcasting videos on Youtube in which he claimed to have modified the genes of some twins, this Sunday, November 25.

According to the Chinese researcher, the girls, Lulu and Nana, "they were born healthy a few weeks ago", Thanks to the in vitro fertilization with genetic modification technology "that will prevent them from becoming infected with HIV."

In these videos, He claims to have used the Crispr / Cas9 technique and justifies the experiment by stating that the genetic modification "does not aim to eliminate genetic diseases"But" to give girls the natural ability for resist to one possible future HIV infection".

To achieve its goal, He claims to have "deactivated" the CCR5 gene, which forms a protein that allows HIV to enter a cell and in practice suppose a DNA enhancement.

"I understand that my work is controversial, but I think families need this technology and I am willing to accept criticism for them," he says in one of the videos.

University "shocked"

However, the University of Science and Technology of the South from the city of Shenzhen on Monday, November 26, addressed his professor in a statement and stressed that he did not even know about this project.

The institution said it felt "deeply shocked by the case"And urged He, on leave from February this year, to come as soon as possible to give explanations.

"The University will call international experts to investigate this incident, which represents a grave breach of ethics and the academic standards"Said the institution about the project, which has also raised doubts about its veracity, since to date it has not been published in any scientific journal.

For its part, the press China acknowledged Monday that the study has sparked controversy among academics and the public across the country.

The rotary China Daily reports on concerns "for ethical reasons and for its effectiveness," and reveals that the parents of the two babies are people with HIV, citing Bai Hua, head of Baihualin, a non-governmental organization dealing with people with HIV.

Ethical questioning

Meanwhile, more than 120 academics from the scientific community China said in a statement issued in Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, that "any attempt" to make changes in human embryos through genetic modification is "crazy" and that giving birth to these babies carries "a high risk" .

"The Government must take legislative measures to strictly monitor such research, "the Chinese scientists added.

The controversy comes a day before the researchers in this field begin a major meeting on genome modification, which will take place from 27 to 29 November in Hong Kong.

Globally, the magazine Nature joined this November 26 to debate and in an article argues that the announcement has caused "indignation" get in there scientific community International and that, if true, "would represent a significant leap in the use of human genome modification."

"It's premature, dangerous and irresponsible," said Joyce Harper, a researcher at University College London.

"This experiment exposes normal and healthy children to risks without any real benefit needed," the magazine stresses.

Nature points out that such tools have only been used up to now to study their benefit in eliminating disease-causing mutations, adding that the scientific community "has been calling for a long time" to create ethical guidelines long before that such a case should arise.

In 2016, a group of Chinese scientists became a pioneer in using in humans, specifically with patients with lung cancer, the genetic modification technology Crispr, then reported in the journal Nature.

Scientists in the United Kingdom, however, have discovered that genetic engineering technology Crispr can cause more damage to cells than previously thought, according to a study published this year by the same journal.

With information from EFE / Photo: RCN Radio

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