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Chinese Researcher Defends Gene-Editing Embryos With Goal Of Making HIV-Resistant Infants; Unverified Claim Spurs Controversy Among Researchers

Associated Press: Chinese researcher claims first gene-edited babies
“A Chinese researcher claims that he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies — twin girls born this month whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life. If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics…” (Marchione, 11/26).

New York Times: Chinese Scientist Claims to Use CRISPR to Make First Genetically Edited Babies
“…The researcher, He Jiankui, said that he had altered a gene in the embryos, before having them implanted in the mother’s womb, with the goal of making the babies resistant to infection with HIV. He has not published the research in any journal and did not share any evidence or data that definitively proved he had done it…” (Kolata et al., 11/26).

STAT: An outsider claimed to make genome-editing history — and the world snapped to attention
“…The claim, which has not been verified by outside researchers, was heralded by a few as a scientific milestone, an unprecedented step toward preventing all sorts of diseases. But others viewed it as quite the opposite: the reckless breaking of a scientific taboo for personal gain. After all, many far more experienced and respected researchers had the technical know-how to attempt what He did, but they honored the widely accepted ethical barriers. Such research is also illegal in the United States…” (Joseph et al., 11/26).

Washington Post: Chinese genomics scientist defends his gene-editing research in first public appearance
“He Jiankui, the Chinese researcher who claimed this week to have helped produce the world’s first genetically altered babies, said Wednesday there was another ‘potential pregnancy’ involved in his study as he defended a procedure that has shaken the scientific world. Appearing in public for the first time since revealing he had successfully altered the DNA of twin girls while they were embryos to [attempt to] make them resistant to HIV infection, the Stanford-trained bioengineering professor said he felt ‘proud’ of his work and its implications for public health in the face of nearly universal condemnation…” (Shih/Johnson, 11/28).

Additional coverage of this story is available from The Atlantic, Bloomberg, Forbes, The Guardian, HuffPost, New York Times, NPR (2), Reuters, STAT (2), Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

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