Science summit calls gene-edited babies ‘deeply disturbing’ but rejects moratorium on similar research

gene
The audience reacts as He Jiankui, a Chinese researcher, speaks during the Human Genome Editing Conference in Hong Kong. Image credit: AP Photo/Kin Cheung

A Chinese scientist’s claims that he created the world’s first gene-edited babies is a “deeply disturbing” and “irresponsible” violation of international scientific norms, according to a formal conclusion issued Thursday by organizers of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong.

But the summit rejected calls for a blanket moratorium on such research, saying that the work could eventually lead to new ways to prevent a long list of serious genetic diseases.

“Making changes in the DNA of embryos could allow parents carrying disease-causing mutation have healthy genetically related children,” said David Baltimore, a Nobel-prize winning U.S. biologist who chaired the summit.

The summit was jolted by scientist He Jiankui’s surprise and unverified claims earlier this week that he had edited the genes of twin girls who were born last month.

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He, of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, claims he modified the embryos of the twins with the gene-editing technique CRISPR so that they would be immune to the AIDS virus. His claims remain unproven.

The goal was to reach a global scientific consensus on how scientists might some day ethically use powerful new gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR to edit the human genetic blueprint.

Baltimore said “draconian bans would be antithetical to the goals of science,” and unnecessarily hinder the advancement of science.

Read full, original post: Science Summit Denounces Gene-Edited Babies Claim, But Rejects Moratorium

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