Last updated January 2, 2020 at 02:43 AM
A Chinese researcher caused a global shock by claiming to have given birth to the first genetically modified babies.
It was November 28, 2018, during the second international summit on genome editing. Chinese researcher He Jiankui claimed in front of a crowded amphitheater in Hong Kong that he had achieved the feat of creating the first “genetically modified babies”. This researcher said he was proud to have allowed the birth of twins, nicknamed "Lulu" and "Nana". Their DNA would have been modified to make them resistant to the AIDS virus with which their father was infected.
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He Jiankui, explained to have used the revolutionary tool CRISPR-Cas9, known as “genetic scissors”, which makes it possible to remove and replace undesirable parts of the genome, as one corrects a typo on a computer.
Although this technique started from a good intention by opening perspectives of fight in the field of hereditary diseases, it was violently criticized because the modifications carried out would be transmitted to future generations. These changes could also end up affecting the entire genetic heritage.
Many experts had denounced the fact of having exposed healthy embryos to genetic modifications which could indeed generate unwanted mutations in areas different from those targeted.
This incident blatantly violated Chinese laws and regulations and openly exceeded the moral and ethical limits adhered to by the academic community, China's vice minister of science and technology told CCTV. , Xu Nanping.
It is shocking and unacceptable. We display our firm opposition, he stressed, calling for the suspension of the scientific activities of those involved.
Condemned by his peers, let down by his country: the pressure had increased on He Jiankui and Beijing, now calling for the suspension of its activities. The Chinese National Health Commission had announced the opening of an investigation, while the Shenzhen hospital supposed to have approved the research had denied any involvement.
Researcher He Jiankui had claimed that "The volunteers were informed of the risks of potential side effects and decided on implantation," adding that the South Shenzhen University of Science and Technology, to which he is attached, no 'was "not aware of the study"
He did not disclose the identities of those directly involved in the study. Chinese authorities had confirmed in January 2019 that a second woman was pregnant with a child with modified DNA, in addition to the two twins already born, but the birth of this baby had not been confirmed.
Chinese researcher He Jiankui was sentenced on December 23, 2019 to 3 years in prison plus an almond of 3 million yuan (252,176,395.16 cfa francs) for illegal practice of medicine.
And you, what do you think of GM babies? Is it favorable to authorize their coming into the world or not?