Chinese Project Claims 1st Genetically Edited Babies, Ignites Moral Outrage

DNA experiments on humans are banned in the US.

genetically edited babies
(BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)
UIG via Getty Images

A United States scientist working on a Chinese experiment claims to have produced the world’s first genetically edited babies. The experiment, which is banned in the US due to the possibility of these genetic changes affecting future generations, would be the first of its kind ever reported.

The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, said that he worked with several couples and would not reveal any personal information that could identify the participants. One of these couples recently gave birth to a set of twins. Jiankui told the AP that his goal “was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but to try to bestow a trait that few people naturally have — an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the AIDS virus.”

Jiankui’s research has not been independently verified or published though he feels confident in his findings: “I feel a strong responsibility that it’s not just to make a first, but also make it an example,” he told the AP. “Society will decide what to do next” in terms of allowing or forbidding such science.

Some researchers in the community are shocked to learn of this experiment: “It’s unconscionable… an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible,” said Dr. Kiran Musunuru, a University of PA gene editing expert and genetics journal editor.

Jiankui said he practiced editing mice, monkey and human embryos for several years and has even applied for patents on his scientific methods.

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