Marilyn Marchione, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, November 29, 2018 7:30 EST
Last Updated Thursday, 29 November 2018 7:49 EST
HONG KONG – The Chinese government ordered a halt Thursday to work with medical teams that claim to have helped make the first edited babies in the world, when a leading group of scientists stated that it was too early to try to make permanent changes to DNA. which can be inherited by future generations.
China's Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Xu Nanping told state broadcast television that his ministry was strongly opposed to efforts reported to have resulted in twins born earlier this month. Xu said the team's actions were illegal and unacceptable and said the investigation had been ordered, but did not specify the specific actions taken.
Researcher He Jiankui claims to have changed the twins' DNA to try to make them resistant to infection with the AIDS virus. Mainstream scientists have condemned experiments, and universities and government groups are investigating.
He experimented "across the lines of morality and ethics that the academic community adheres to and is shocking and unacceptable," Xu said.
A group of prominent scientists gathered in Hong Kong this week for an international conference on gene editing, the ability to rewrite life codes to try to correct or prevent disease.
Although science holds promise to help people who are already born and study ongoing tests, a statement released Thursday by 14 conference leaders said it was not responsible to try it on eggs, sperm or embryos except in laboratory studies because it was not yet known enough. about risk or safety.
This conference was rocked by claims by Chinese researchers to help make the world's first gene edited babies. The conference leader called for an independent investigation into claims by Him, who spoke to the group Wednesday when international criticism of his claims increased.
There is no independent confirmation of what he said. He was scheduled to speak again at the conference on Thursday, but he left Hong Kong and through a spokesman sent a statement saying "I will remain in China, my home country, and work fully with all the questions about my work. I am raw data will be available for third party review. "
Some prominent scientists say that the case shows failure in the field to monitor itself and the need for stricter principles or regulations.
"It's not reasonable to expect the scientific community" to follow the guidelines, said David Baltimore, a Nobel winner from the California Institute of Technology who chairs the panel.
There are already rules that should prevent what he says, he said, Alta Charo, University of Wisconsin lawyer and bioethics and conference organizer.
"I think failure is his, not the scientific community," Charo said.
Gene editing for reproductive purposes can be considered in the future "but only if there is a strong medical need," with a clear understanding of risks and benefits, and certain other conditions, Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the US National Medical Academy, one of the conference sponsors.
"Not following this guide will be irresponsible," he added.
Other sponsors of the three-day conference are the Hong Kong Academy of Sciences, the United Kingdom Association, and the US National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
The Associated Press Department of Health & Science received support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. AP is fully responsible for all content.