Shock greets claim of CRISPR-edited babies

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China's National Health Commission said on Monday it was "highly concerned" and had ordered provincial health officials "to immediately investigate and clarify the matter".

The procedure is a potential fix for heritable diseases but it is extremely controversial because the changes would be passed down to future generations and could eventually affect the entire gene pool.

During the event He also announced an additional claim: "There is another one... another potential pregnancy".

There is no independent confirmation of He's claim, and he has not yet published in any scientific journal where it would be vetted by experts.

The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, revealed the possible pregnancy as he made his first public comments about his controversial work at an global conference in Hong Kong. "The choice of the diseases that we heard discussions about earlier today are much more pressing" than trying to prevent HIV infection this way, he said.

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By using a method called Crispr-Cas9, Mr He was able to target specific blocks of DNA with pinpoint precision. Some feel it is too premature to try, others feel it is justifiable. Doudna, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says she hopes CRISPR will someday be used to edit bad diseases out of the human genome.

Instead of altering a gene, they turned off a genetic instruction essential for early embryo development to see how that affected growth.

Tampering with genes of human embryos is outlawed in many countries. Couples decided whether to edit or unedit embryos for pregnancy attempts, 16 of 22 embryos were edited with 11 embryos being used in 6 implant attempts before the twin pregnancy was achieved. They had HIV positive males and HIV negative mothers.

Since then several scientists have reviewed the material that He Jiankui provided to the AP, tests so far are suggested to be insufficient to say editing worked to rule out harm, noting evidence of editing being incomplete, and at least one twin appears to be a patchwork of cells with various changes, nearly as if not editing at all. Because the modification was made to early stage embryos the trait may pass down through the girls' descendants. We only found out about it after it happened, and after the children were even born. It is not clear whether the participants fully understood goal and potential risks and benefits.

Scientists and the Chinese government have denounced He's work, and a hospital linked to his research suggested its ethical approval had been forged. His work has not been independently verified, and Dr. If the births are confirmed the case will be handled in accordance to relevant laws and regulations, it is not clear whether there could be possible criminal charges. That's why summits like the one held this week are put together, so that scientists can work together to come up with rules on how to utilize such incredible power over life. The scientist also faces probes by the Shenzhen City Medical Ethics Expert Board and the Chinese Academy of Science's academic division. The Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, where He was employed has said that he was on unpaid leave since February and that the university was unaware of his experiments. Later, the Chinese government said it had suspended and launched a probe into the clinical project run by researcher He Jiankui in southern China.