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Reports of the first gene edited twins an alarming wake-up call

23Strands News
23Strands News December 04, 2018

Reports of the world's first gene-edited babies have arisen this month, sending shock waves through the scientific community


He Jiankui, from the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, told the Associated Press and explained in a series of YouTube videos that his team had successfully engineered the genomes of twin baby girls, modifying a gene to build resistance to HIV infection. The modification was made to early stage embryos, meaning that the trait may pass down through the girls' descendants, affecting any children they may have.

The announcement was met with a firestorm of international criticism, with many arguing that technology had been used prematurely without necessary consideration given to the unforeseen ways in which the babies could be affected. Many have similarly argued that the experiment was unjustified, as there are more efficient and safer ways to prevent HIV infections already in existence. Chinese national and local authorities have since commenced investigations to determine any regulations have been violated. The news has acted as a wakeup call for scientists and regulators, exposing the demand for serious conversation around the ethics of gene editing, enabling regulations be put into place ensuring the safety of such experiments, and the ethical use of innovative CRISPR technologies into the future.