Science 3 min read

Chinese Scientists Condemn He Jiankui's Work on the CRISPR Babies

He Jiankui's work on the now infamous CRISPR babies may be one of the most controversial scientific developments of modern times. Now, members of the Chinese scientific community have, once again, shown their disapproval and condemnation of He's actions.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

China’s scientific community has condemned He Jiankui‘s work on the CRISPR babies, calling his experiment unnecessary, substandard, and posing a significant risk to the infants.

In a paper published in the journal Plos BiologyHaoyi Wang of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hui Yang of the Shanghai Research Center for Brain Science and Brain-Inspired Intelligence dismantled and pointed out everything wrong about the science behind He Jiankui’s work.

In their piece, the two Chinese researchers expressed their initial reaction upon hearing He’s announcement on November 28th. They wrote:

“As researchers working in the gene-editing field in China, we were completely shocked by this news. It would appear that He had been doing this work in secret. As far as we know, He has not published noteworthy scientific papers in the gene-editing field and was not actively involved in the gene-editing community in China.”

Experiment on CRISPR Babies may Fail

It was the evening before the 2nd International Human Genome Editing Summit in Hong Kong last November when He revealed that he modified the CCR5 genes of several embryos using the controversial CRISPR gene-editing technique to make them resistant to HIV.

The embryos were brought to term, and one of the many attempts successfully resulted in the birth of twin girls now referred to as the world’s first CRISPR babies.

According to Wang and Yang, He’s work was an “extremely irresponsible misconduct, which clearly violated the regulatory and medical ethics of China and nations all over the world.”

The duo pointed out that gene-editing the CCR5 genes in embryos is not necessary to prevent an HIV positive father from transmitting the infection to the fetus. Infected fathers can still produce healthy babies through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) which has a higher success rate than modifying CCR5 genes at the moment. The Chinese researchers added:

“As for considering future immunity to HIV infection, simply avoiding potential risk of HIV exposure suffices for most people. Therefore, editing early embryos does not provide benefits for the babies, while posing potentially serious risks on multiple fronts.”

Disgraced Scientist’s Work was Scientifically and Ethically Irresponsible

The authors also criticized the lack of research documents to support He Jiankui’s claims. The disgraced scientist had not published a paper about his work on any platform. The only data he showed the world was those in the PowerPoint slides he presented during the summit which were deemed insufficient for vetting.

The Chinese scientists concluded that there is no genetic reason to perform gene-editing on the human germline based on what little information He made available to the public. The authors claimed that the scientist behind the CRISPR babies and his cohorts just grossly violated the Chinese regulations and the agreed consensus of the international scientific community.

“We strongly condemn their actions as extremely irresponsible, both scientifically and ethically. We strongly urge the international community of scientists and regulators to initiate a comprehensive discussion as soon as possible to develop the criteria and standards for genome editing in the human germline for reproductive purposes.”

Read More: Researcher Warns That China’s Gene-Edited Twins Have Enhanced Brains

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Rechelle Ann Fuertes

Rechelle is an SEO content producer, technical writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with family and friends.

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