Rice University in the United States is under investigation after their bioengineering professor Michael Deem was reportedly involved in working with a Chinese researcher who claims to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies and altered the DNA of several embryos to make them resistant to HIV.
According to He Jiankui, two twins were born with a model he used as known as CRISPR-cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) – its an adaptive immunity method which can insert or deactivate certain genes. In his YouTube video, He describes the procedure as having “removed the doorway through which HIV enters.”
Scientists have not verified his claims or peer-reviewed his work. He Jiankui sparked an international outcry as gene editing of embryos intended for pregnancy is banned in many countries, including the United States. In the UK, editing of embryos is permitted only for research purposes but needs regulatory approval prior to commencement. Gene-editing is not just considered unethical but is also not safe and if used in pregnancy can have un-foreseen or unintended consequences for babies later in life or affect future generations.
He Jiankui has also announced that there is a separate woman who was pregnant at an early stage with a modified embryo.
China has invested heavily in gene-editing technology in, the first use of the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 in humans in 2016 and the first reported use of gene editing technology to modify nonviable human embryos in 2015.