Chinese scientist: He Jiankui defends ‘world’s first gene-edited babies’

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Chinese scientist: He Jiankui – who claims to have created the world’s first genetically edited babies – has defended his work.

Prof He Jiankui had announced earlier this week that he had altered the DNA of embryos – twin girls – to prevent them from contracting HIV. He claims to have eliminated a gene called ‘CCR5’ to make the girls resistant to HIV, should they ever come into contact with the virus. He also revealed, the twin girls – known as “Lulu” and “Nana” – were born normal and healthy, and added that there were plans to monitor the twins over the next 18 years.

However, the claims have not been independently verified.

Many scientists condemned the announcement, some calling the idea “monstrous”.
Speaking to the media, Prof Julian Savulescu, who is an ethics expert at the University of Oxford said, as gene editing itself is experimental, it is still associated with off-target mutations, capable of causing genetic problems early and later in life, including the development of cancer.

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