The Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, held in Hong Kong last November, was meant to debate the pros and cons of genetically engineering humans. Instead, the proceedings were turned upside down by the revelation that He Jiankui, a Chinese biophysicist, had already done it.
He’d gone ahead and edited the DNA of twin girls with the powerful gene modification tool called CRISPR.
Then the Chinese scientist sprang a further surprise on the shocked gene-editing experts. A second Chinese woman, he said, was pregnant with yet another CRISPR baby. An early pregnancy test had confirmed it.
That third CRISPR baby is now due to be born at any moment—if he or she hasn’t come crying into the world already.
Now the question is whether Chinese authorities will acknowledge the birth of the third child. One thing that He and other scientists agreed on at the summit is that scientific data about the CRISPR babies should be made public. Scientists will want to know the results of editing on the child’s genome. Another baby would be further evidence that CRISPR, despite the controversy surrounding its use, “can produce live births,” [ethicist William] Hurlbut says.
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