First gene-edited babies born in China: Report

Representative Image. Photograph:( DNA )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Nov 26, 2018, 12.26 PM (IST)

A Chinese researcher has claimed that he helped make the world's first gene-edited babies and that he did so with a new tool capable of altering DNA, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The AP report said the twin girls were born to a couple whose embryos were altered during fertility treatment. The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, said he took part in the work in China.

Jiankui however refused to disclose any further information about the couple or where the gene editing might have taken place.

AP reported Jiankui as further claiming that embryos for seven couples were altered for the experiment but that only one pregnancy had so far given the desired result.

The researcher made the claims in Hong Kong, a day before an international conference on gene editing which is set to begin Tuesday.

Gene editing technology is banned in many countries including the US and is also denounced by various scientists who term it as "unsafe" and unethical.

China outlaws human cloning but not specifically gene editing.

In recent years scientists have discovered ways to edit genes. A tool call CRISPR-cas9 makes it possible to operate on DNA to supply a needed gene or disable the one that’s causing problems.

If the claims get confirmed then it will be a groundbreaking research in the medical field as it can be used by doctors to cure or prevent inherited disease.

However, gene alteration so far has only been experimented on adults to treat badly diseases.

The AP report further states researcher saying that his goal was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but to try to bestow a trait that few people naturally have — an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the AIDS virus.

He chose embryo gene editing for HIV as these infections are a big problem in China.
 

Story highlights

A researcher has said that he helped alter embryos for seven couples but that only one pregnancy has so far given the desired result.