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More Details on the First Genetically Altered Babies Reportedly Born in China

In China, a Chinese Researcher, He Jiankui, is claiming to have engineered the births of the world’s first genetically edited babies. According to Jiankui, he conducted tests on eight couples, who were made up of HIV positive fathers and HIV negative mothers. He manipulate the genetic makeup of the embryos of children while their mother was pregnant with them, to prevent them from contracting HIV. Jiankui states that two of the children, Lulu and Nana, whose genes he edited were born this month.

  In an interview with the Associated Press, He Jiankui stated: “I feel a strong responsibility that it’s not just to make a first, but also make it an example. Society will decide what to do next.”

   Jiankui’s work has yet to be verified by any independent organization nor has the breakdown of his experiments been published in any scientific journal.

 The reactions to He Jiankui’s claim has been mixed. Many scientists and researchers have condemned Jiankui’s practices. According to the BBC, hundreds of scientists in China signed a letter to criticize Jiankui. Julian Savulescu told the BBC, “If true, this experiment is monstrous. Gene editing itself is experimental and is still associated with off-target mutations, capable of causing genetic problems early and later in life, including the development of cancer.”

Doctor Kiran Musunuru, a University of Pennsylvania gene altering expert, tells the Associated Press, ““unconscionable … an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible.”

However, some scientists have responded positively to He Jiankui’s claim. George Church, a Geneticist at Harvard University, states “I think this is justifiable.” If He Jiankui’s experiments actually worked and he has successfully altered the genetic blueprint of these children, then these debates will only increase even more.

Most countries have similar laws when it comes to Genetic manipulation. Cloning is illegal in most first world nations. However, while gene altering is legal in China.

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