For the first time, scientists have argued that the use of powerful new genetic editing method to create a genetically modified human babies.
Scientist He Jiankui South University of Science and Technology in Shenzen, China, said that he used human embryos modified with a gene-editing technique to create a CRISPR twin girls.
"Two beautiful little Chinese girls named Nana and Lula came to cry to the world as healthy as any other children a few weeks ago." He says in a video posted on the Internet. "These babies home with his mother Grace, and their father, Mark."
He says that his team performed "gene surgery" embryos created from the sperm and eggs of their parents to protect children from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. Children with father & # 39 is HIV-positive.
"If Lula and Nana had only one cell, the operation removed a doorway through which the HIV enter to infect people," he says in the video, one of the few located in the Internet, in order to justify and explain the work.
Since the study has not yet been published in a scientific journal or thoroughly checked by other scientists, many researchers remain cautious and bioethics claims.
But if it is true, many said that the movement will be historic, comparing it with the birth of Louise Brown, the first baby created through artificial insemination, IVF.
"This event may be similar to Louise Brown in 1978," wrote George Church, a Harvard geneticist known, in an email. "And the occasional – even a healthy baby girl can have an impact," he wrote the church.
He and the Church among the hundreds of scientists who gathered at the Second International Summit on Human Editing Gene in Hong Kong. The summit was organized to try to reach a global consensus on whether and how it would be unethical to create genetically modified people from CRISPR.
He claims immediately triggered widespread criticism from the participants of the Summit and in other places.
"This work with the & # 39 is a break from the prudent and transparent approach, the use of the global scientific community about the CRISPR-cas9 to edit the human germ," Jennifer Daudna, a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley, said in an interview with & # 39; S. Doudna CRISPR helped to identify and organize the summit.
"We are all here at this conference, struggling to figure out what has been done and whether the process has been done correctly. We just do not know, "said Jennifer Daudna says.
But the claim "really reinforces the urgent need to limit the use of gene editing in human embryos in those places where there is a clear unmet medical need and where there is no viable alternative approach," says Doudna. She does not think that this is the case in this situation.
"If this was done to avoid HIV infection, there are alternative ways to prevent infections that are already effective,» Doudna says, for example, "washing" the sperm of infected males to eliminate HIV.
"Why do not you use it instead of existing approaches?» Doudna says.
For his research, he and his colleagues say they have used the CRISPR, to make changes in one-day-old embryos in a gene called CCR5. CCR5 gene allows HIV to enter and infect cells of the immune system. Scientists have long been looking for ways to block this way to protect people from HIV.
He used a CRISPR edit 16 embryos and implanted with 11 embryos edited in the wombs of women, to try to create a viable pregnancy twin pregnancy has been achieved, according to the Associated Press, which first reported that he claims.
"No single gene has not been changed, in addition, to prevent HIV infection," he says. Twins appear healthy and have passed a detailed genetic analysis. "It is confirmed that the gene operation operated safely," he says.
Nevetheless, other scientists are skeptical, really worked editing, show that it is too early for the team to try and experiment.
"It is premature at this stage of the technology," wrote Shoukryut Mitalip, a scientist at the University of Oregon Health & Sciences in Portland, Oregon. Mitalipov was the first scientist to report using CRISPR successfully edit human embryos, but stopped far attempts to use them for children.
Other experts agree.
"While I appreciate the global threat posed by HIV, at this stage, edit embryos knock of CCR5, seem to outweigh the potential benefits of risk," wrote Zhang Feng, CRISPR pioneer at MIT. Zhang pointed out that the CCR5 gene knockout "is likely to make a person much more susceptible to the West Nile virus."
CRISPR allows scientists to make very precise changes to DNA much easier than ever before. As a result, it is revolutionizing research and raising high hopes for major breakthroughs, including the prevention and treatment of many diseases.
But the changes in human DNA, which can be transferred within a few generations have long been considered outside. One of the causes of the & # 39 is that the error can enter a new disease that can be transmitted for several generations. Another of the & # 39 is that it can open the door to "designer babies" – children, modified for non-medical reasons, for example, be higher, stronger or smarter.
"If this is true, as reported, it is very premature and dubious experiment in the creation of genetically modified children," agrees Geoffrey Kahn, Bioethics at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics part in the summit in Hong Kong.
But the development of CRISPR prompted some scientists to rethink the ban for medical purposes. And researchers around the world have been racing to identify how this can be done safely. Many scientists believe that this is inevitable, but it should be limited to situations where there is no alternative available.
"If this is true, this is equivalent to reckless and unethical human experimentation, and Sur & # 39; oznae violation of human rights," said Marcy Darnovski, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a group of genetic observation.
"Opened the door to a society of genetic wealthy and poor undermines our chances and just future," says Darnovsky.
He admits that his work may cause criticism, but protects step.
"I understand that my work will be controversial. But I think something & # 39; and the need for this technology. And I will accept criticism for them, "he says.