Chinese geneticist He Jiankui has announced that his team has created the world’s first genetically modified babies, twins whose DNA has been altered with the CRISPR genetic editing technique to mutate a gene and make them immune to the HIV that causes AIDS.
“I feel a great responsibility because this is not only the first time that something like this has been done, but my work will also become an example of how to carry out this type of project, considering the morality of society and its impact on the public,” said He Jiankui, the leading scientist of this project.
He Jiankui says that he altered the embryos of seven couples during fertility treatments, although he only obtained a successful pregnancy. His goal, as he went on to explain, is not to cure or prevent a hereditary disease, but to provide a trait that few people have naturally. In this case, is about the immunity to possible future infection with HIV.
Chinese Scientists Created The First Genetically Modified Babies In The World
The alteration of the gene occurred through “IVF gene therapy,” which is associated with in vitro fertilization. Genetic editing was done using the tool known as CRISPR-cas9, which roughly works by cutting the DNA sequence to disable a specific gene.
The work has not yet been confirmed or independently reviewed by the international scientific community. If finally proven, it would cross a new frontier in the field of medicine and ethics.
“If it is true, this experiment is monstrous,” Julian Savulescu, director of the Uehiro Center for Practical Ethics at Oxford University. “These healthy babies are being used as guinea pigs. It’s a Russian genetic roulette,” Savulescu added, describing He Jiankui’s work.
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us to prove and establish that the procedure is really safe. No baby should be born using this genetic editing technology. It’s too early and too hasty,” also said Kiran Musunuru from the University of Pennsylvania.