Report: Gene-edited babies born in China

In an announcement with profound implications for the future of humanity, a Chinese scientist claims to have worked on the first successful live birth of babies whose genetic makeup had been artificially altered.

A Chinese researcher claims that he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies — twin girls born this month whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life.

If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics.

A U.S. scientist said he took part in the work in China, but this kind of gene editing is banned in the United States because the DNA changes can pass to future generations and it risks harming other genes.

Many mainstream scientists think it’s too unsafe to try, and some denounced the Chinese report as human experimentation.

This is more than "playing God." God would not experiment with his own creation. 

The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, said he altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments, with one pregnancy resulting thus far. He said 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.

He said the parents involved declined to be identified or interviewed, and he would not say where they live or where the work was done.

There is no independent confirmation of He’s claim, and it has not been published in a journal, where it would be vetted by other experts. He revealed it Monday in Hong Kong to one of the organizers of an international conference on gene editing that is set to begin Tuesday, and earlier in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press.

“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.

The problem isn't with the "gene edited" babies. The uncertainty arises in their offspring. How will the edited genes behave when passed on to the next generation? Will they revert to their original coding? Will they mutate into something worse? We just don't have the answers yet and to experiment with human beings like this is simply appalling.

It’s “unconscionable ... an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible,” said Dr. Kiran Musunuru, a University of Pennsylvania gene editing expert and editor of a genetics journal.

“This is far too premature,” said Dr. Eric Topol, who heads the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California. “We’re dealing with the operating instructions of a human being. It’s a big deal.”

The experiment could not have taken place anywhere else in the world except a Communist country. Morals and ethics exist only to serve the state. In that sense, China has opened a Pandora's box because it could open Pandora's box and no other reason. Once it became possible, Communist authorities saw no reason to stop it.

Does anyone believe that they will only edit genes that make a human being less susceptible to the AIDS virus? Preventing genes from causing diseases is certainly next, but eventually, a baby's genes will be altered to determine intelligence, hair color, athletic ability - the possibilities are endless.

A brave new world? I hope not. At least, not until we deal with the ethical ramifications of the technology. And that won't be until we fully understand what editing genes will do.

In an announcement with profound implications for the future of humanity, a Chinese scientist claims to have worked on the first successful live birth of babies whose genetic makeup had been artificially altered.

A Chinese researcher claims that he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies — twin girls born this month whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life.

If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics.

A U.S. scientist said he took part in the work in China, but this kind of gene editing is banned in the United States because the DNA changes can pass to future generations and it risks harming other genes.

Many mainstream scientists think it’s too unsafe to try, and some denounced the Chinese report as human experimentation.

This is more than "playing God." God would not experiment with his own creation. 

The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, said he altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments, with one pregnancy resulting thus far. He said 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.

He said the parents involved declined to be identified or interviewed, and he would not say where they live or where the work was done.

There is no independent confirmation of He’s claim, and it has not been published in a journal, where it would be vetted by other experts. He revealed it Monday in Hong Kong to one of the organizers of an international conference on gene editing that is set to begin Tuesday, and earlier in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press.

“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.

The problem isn't with the "gene edited" babies. The uncertainty arises in their offspring. How will the edited genes behave when passed on to the next generation? Will they revert to their original coding? Will they mutate into something worse? We just don't have the answers yet and to experiment with human beings like this is simply appalling.

It’s “unconscionable ... an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible,” said Dr. Kiran Musunuru, a University of Pennsylvania gene editing expert and editor of a genetics journal.

“This is far too premature,” said Dr. Eric Topol, who heads the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California. “We’re dealing with the operating instructions of a human being. It’s a big deal.”

The experiment could not have taken place anywhere else in the world except a Communist country. Morals and ethics exist only to serve the state. In that sense, China has opened a Pandora's box because it could open Pandora's box and no other reason. Once it became possible, Communist authorities saw no reason to stop it.

Does anyone believe that they will only edit genes that make a human being less susceptible to the AIDS virus? Preventing genes from causing diseases is certainly next, but eventually, a baby's genes will be altered to determine intelligence, hair color, athletic ability - the possibilities are endless.

A brave new world? I hope not. At least, not until we deal with the ethical ramifications of the technology. And that won't be until we fully understand what editing genes will do.