First gene-edited babies claimed in China

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A scientist in China claims to have created world’s first ever gene-edited babies. According to the researcher, he has helped develop the genetically edited twin baby girls to prevent from contracting HIV. He Jiankui of Shenzhen said that he altered embryos resulting with one pregnancy thus far.  He said his aim was to try to prevent possible future infections such as HIV, the AIDS virus. There is yet no official confirmation of his claims and also it has not been published by a journal. He revealed it on Monday to one of the organizers of an international conference on gene editing that is set to begin on Tuesday, in Hong Kong.

A United States scientist said that he took part in this work of gene-editing in China, but also states that this type of gene-editing is banned in the United States because the change in DNA can to future generations and it might risk harming other genes.

According to the Chinese researchers the families involved have inclined to be either identified or interviewed and he will not tell that where they live or can be found.

Some Scientist from across the world have shown their concerns on hearing about this alleged gene editing and say that it is human experimentation.

The Chinese scientist says that he chose embryo gene editing for HIV because this infection is a very major issue in China and is very prevailing. He sought to disable a gene that is called CCR5 that forms a protein doorway allowing HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to enter a cell.

He said that the gene editing was done by IVF. Firstly, sperm was separated from semen by washing. A single sperm was placed into a single egg to create an embryo. After that gene pool editing was used. Finally, when the embryos were three to five days old, a few cells were removed to check for editing. He further added that couples had the liberty to choose whether to use edited or unedited embryos for pregnancy attempts. In about six attempts eleven embryos were used before the twin pregnancy was finally achieved.

According to him, the test results suggest that one of the two babies had both copies of the intended gene-altered and the other twin had just one altered, with no evidence of harm to other genes. People with one copy can still get HIV.

He Jiankui (HEH JEE’-an-qway), also known by  “JK,” studied at Rice and Stanford universities in the U.S. before returning to his homeland to open a lab at Southern University of Science and Technology of China in Shenzhen, where he also has two genetics companies. He has stated that he practiced editing mice, monkey, and human embryos in the lab for several years and has applied for patents on his methods. He states that his main aim for this gene-editing was to give the couples affected by HIV a chance to have babies protected from the infection.