One Chinese scientist announced the birth of the first genetically modified babies – a case with deep medical and ethical implications, which are already generating a strong rejection among the world scientific community.
"Two beautiful Chinese girls named Lulu and Nana came to the world a few weeks ago, crying as well as any other baby," he said in a video clip posted on YouTube on Sunday.
According to him, the genetic modification in the embryos is done with the new CRISPR-Cas9 technique, in order to make newborns resistant to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The researcher at the Southern University of Science and Technology says the genetic modification has been successful and that only one gene has been modified to prevent HIV infection.
The identities of babies and their parents have been kept secret, but he thinks the father is HIV-bearer and wants to prevent their children from being discriminated against.
There is currently no scientific publication on the He announced intervention, but only a Chinese Clinical Trials inscription.
The message has already led to a number of negative reactions.
More than 120 Chinese scientists today denounced Jianqui's announcement in an open letter. People's experience is "madness" and has serious potential consequences, says an open letter signed by scientists from various institutions, including the Qinghua, Beijing and Fudan universities, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"These irreversible transformations of human genetic material, which are very uncertain in science, will inevitably be mixed into the human genetic group," the letter said.
"It is possible that born babies are healthy for a certain period of time, but the risks and potential harm to the human group (…) are incalculable," adds the letter.
They also regret that the experiment is a "serious blow to China's global reputation" and they want the inspection bodies to act as soon as possible and investigate the case.
"Pandora's box is open and we may have the opportunity to close it before the damage is irreparable," they warn.
One of the discoverers of the CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing Technique, American Jennifer Dudina, also criticized Hey's announcement.
"If confirmed, this work is a break from safeguards and a transparent approach to the application of the CRISPR-Cas9 global scientific community," said Doudna, a professor of chemistry, molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley.
Dudna said his research has not yet been published or explored by the scientific community. The researcher is in Hong Kong, where he is attending a summit meeting on human heroimia, which he also plans to attend.
"Assuming that scientific analysis confirms today's news, this work confirms the urgent need to restrict the use of genetic editing in human embryos to scenarios where there is a clear medical need that is not covered and where another medical approach is not feasible" , he stressed.
"It is important to continue a public and transparent discussion on the many applications of genetic technology for editing," he added. The US researcher is convinced that this message "does not throw an inappropriate shadow" on CRISPR-Cas9 technology and research that can one day be used "to treat and treat genetic, infectious and common illnesses in adults and children.
The CRISPR-Cas9 mechanism was discovered almost three decades ago, and in 2003, the Spanish microbiologist Francisco Martínez Mojica discovered that this is a mechanism that micro-organisms use to protect themselves against viruses. They do this by cutting genetic material from viruses and incorporating this material into their own DNA, a procedure in which Cas9 interferes with genetic scissors.
The discovery of Moggia is the basis for Doudna and French researcher Emanuel Charpentier to achieve years later artificially reproducing the system and represent in 2012 that could be used to accurately change the genome as well as humans.