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In the midst of insurrection, Chinese scientists are defending the creation of refurbished children

H ONG KONG – The scientist who solicited #crisprbabies a topic on Twitter this week defended his attempt to create…

H ONG KONG – The scientist who solicited #crisprbabies a topic on Twitter this week defended his attempt to create the world’s first redirected children and the bold way he announced it – through the press and a YouTube video – Wednesday at the International Summit for human review.

“In this case,” he told Jiankui about the twins born as a result of his work, “I feel proud”. And far from acknowledging other thoughts about what co-researchers who acted as a “scary act threatening to bring back therapeutic review”. He doubled: he said that he has begun a pregnancy, still at a very early stage, with embryonic embryos.

He began humiliating in his first public commentary on his research with a statement that drew silent gasp from the audience: “I have to apologize for these results leaking prior to peer review,” he said. [1

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In fact, his representative had come to a reporter months ago and allowed extensive filming in his lab to tell about his work, which he acknowledged.

He carefully orchestrated the message on Sunday – two days before the start of the summit – of his claim that the girls, created from genome-edited embryos, had been born a few weeks ago. He interviewed and collaborated with extensive film by Associated Press, who was the first to report the news and put up a series of video films in English, rather than publishing his research in an academic journal. And when he sent his pictures to the summit organizers before the conference, they did not mention anything about the work that had already led to birth.

He also admitted that his university was in the dark of what he did.

A number of outstanding scientists were unpersuaded by Hans comments . “I do not think this has been a transparent process,” said David Baltimore of the California Institute of Technology and chairman of the Summit Organizing Committee during a long Q & A session after 20 minutes of talks. “We only found it … after the birth of the children. I think the scientific community has failed to self-regulation because of the lack of transparency.”

Asked why he had kept his work hidden from the science community, insisted that he did not have it. He noted that he presented a call at Cold Spring Harbor in the United States in 2017 and spoke with a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and Ethics in the United States. But only with the Berkeley researcher, he revealed his plan to create a refurbished infant .

He also revealed that he has now submitted the study to a magazine, but said he would not make the full result available to the scientific community to review until the paper is published.

Birth’s news caused an uprising among researchers here and in the West as it passed a line agreed by leading scientific organizations worldwide to edit the genes of embryos for reproductive purposes. Such spread of bacteria results in changes in DNA inherited by future generations. Editing technology is also still relatively new and comes with technical and security challenges, including the risk of DNA being accidentally cut in the wrong place.

Following his apology of the “leak” he launched a defense of his work on silent insurance. People with HIV / AIDS experience are breaking discrimination, he said, and a large number of children were infected. It led him to choose as a CRISPR target a gene called CCR5, which, when disabled, produces a cell receptor so faded that HIV can not use it as a portal in cells. People who have mutated CCR5 genes are therefore protected against HIV infection.

His answers were not always convincing, and reminded some researchers about the evasiveness of politics on Sunday morning chat. When David Liu of Harvard University, a leading developer of review tools, criticized Han for continuing an experiment that did not address an “unnecessary medical need” (HIV is preventable and treatable), he said he felt that the work was motivated for that the twin HIV-positive father felt that the technology enabled him to have children who would be forever immune to HIV. He also said that he has “personal experience” with HIV, with knowledge of some villages with infection rates of 30 percent.

Han Jiankui talks during the International Human Rights Editing Meeting in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Kin Cheung / AP [19659017] “It’s even more scary and disgusting now,” Liu, founder of the editorial firm Beam Therapeutics, STAT, told. “His response showed a deeply disturbing naive about the current issues. I am deeply afraid that this could put the field [of therapeutic genome editing] so badly that patients will not get the therapies they desperately need.”

Other experts in The audience was equally critical. “After listening to Dr. He, I can only conclude that this was disadvantaged, premature, unnecessary, and to a large extent worthless,” said bioetikist Alta Charo of the University of Wisconsin, a member of the Summit Organizing Committee.

The majority of his tales described the techniques he used and the discoveries he made in experiments with mice and monkeys, for example, the discovery that efficacy was most effective when made close to conception; He therefore delivered the CRISPR-Cas9 rendering molecule through microinjection together with the sperm used to fertilize an egg. However, “multiple” injections of CRISPR were required to increase the efficiency of the editing sufficient to ensure that most cells contained DNA editing.

He is an expert in DNA sequencing, a technique that he used to assess whether CRISPR caused unintentional genetic changes. He found an off-target editing in an embryo before implantation, he said, but felt that it would unlikely affect any biological function. When the parents felt an acceptable glitch, “the couple chose to implant this embryo to start a two-embryo pregnancy,” he said. He added that the sequencing made after birth did not confirm the off-target editing.

Another glitch was that only some of the early embryonic cells were successfully edited; Others retained their original CCR5 gene, which means they can not actually be protected from HIV. Again he said that the parents accepted the “mosaicism” and said they wanted the embryo implanted. Finally, an editing resulted in a CCR5 protein lacking five amino acids. It is not clear if it is sufficiently serious to disable the receptor and thereby prevent HIV infection, Liu said.

The cavalier attitude also broke its critics. Harvard Liu, who said he had to take antacid tablet during the conversation to continue to be ill, said it was “horrendous” to expect parents who probably have little or no scientific education to make a decision according to that obviously no one outside help.

Much of the issue focused on his process of informed consent from the parents who volunteered the trial. He acknowledged that he had received consent from the couple himself, rather than having an educated, unskilled professional do it.

“I explained to each family line by line and paragraph by point” the meaning of the informed consent form, he said, who has been criticized to tell patients that the experiment was about an “AIDS vaccine.” In addition, the form says that the participants agree to protect the “business team’s business secrets”.

“Patients Received An Incorrect Report This was an AIDS vaccine trial, and what conjugated research with therapy claiming they could benefit from it,” says Charo STAT.

Eight couples enrolled for the study and one released, he said. The father was at least HIV positive and modern was not. A total of 31 embryos were injected, he said, and 70 percent was edited.

The uprising of his work, he said in response to a question, has caused the clinical trial of using CRISPR to disable CCR5 in human embryos to be “paused because of the current situation.” But later, he said that another mother is pregnant at a very early stage.

He said the twins, Lulu and Nana, are healthy and that “there is a plan to supervise children for the next 18 years, hoping they will consent to adults for continued monitoring and support. “

The speech was eagerly expected, as he, 34, had not provided any evidence to support allegations in the AP story. He would not reveal where the twins were born or where their family lives. He told AP that he was seeking ethics approval from a board of the Harmonicare Women & Children’s Hospital in Shenzhen but that it was not one of the four that gave embryos to the research that led to birth. The hospital has since said that the girls were not born there either.

Participants, several dozen researchers and journalists, had formed a line at the glass door to 500 people the auditorium at 7:30 in the morning – three hours before the session was set to start – but the room had about 60 empty seats. Just before its session, three security guards took prominent earpieces positions near the front of the room, and a love of photographers and other journalists swung in, fill in corridors and encrypted for the last line iga places (and looks finally bored during the four conversations before he is).

“I am quite aware that there is some interest in this session,” says Robin Lovell-Badge, a development biologist at London’s Francis Crick Institute, with British understatement when he started the session, with nearly 5,000 people watching webcast .

“He must be given a chance to explain what he has done and why,” says Lovell-Badge, adding that “we will close the session immediately” if there is “wrong behavior” during his speech.

Unlike other speakers, who sat in the front lines and invited to the stage when it was their turn to speak, he walked in from a side door and quickly went to the podium to make sweet applause.

Earlier this week, Harmonicare announced that it investigated some ties it has that he investigated and condemned the use of rendering in IVF embryos that used to establish a pregnancy. China’s National Health Commission has ordered officials in Guangdong Province, where he is a laboratory in Shenzhen, to investigate his research, but it is not clear which laws or even guidelines he may have violated in China where rules on genomization and humanity embryonic research is looser than those in many other countries, especially the United States

and the Southern University University of Science and Technology in China, where he has his lab but has been on vacation from teaching assignments since the beginning of the year, issued a statement saying that knew nothing of his research, as it said “seriously violated academic ethics and standards”.

An editorial in China Daily said that an experiment like “he could be catastrophic if carried out without careful security guarantees” said that such research is “considered no no.” It added: “Nobody knows why He did his experiment. It would be a shame if he did it just to get fame. So a thorough investigation is more than necessary and urgent. “

He graduated from the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, in the eastern province of Anhui , then graduated in the United States, earns a Ph.D. in biophysics from Rice University in Texas 2010. He worked as postdoctoral at Stanford University lab by Stephen Quake and returned to China in 2012 to join the then old South University in the tech-heavy southern city of Shenzhen.

Although criticism of He continued in the meeting line as well as in some of the formal conversations, there was an opinion that human embryonic editing was inevitable and could be done responsibly, as several new bioethics reports have also highlighted.

Spoke a few hours before he, Doctor George Daley, Dean of Harvard Medical School, called for the establishment of “standards for evaluating the competence of the practitioner” of CRISPR embryo editing. “People who get right [to do this] must be an expert, must be trained,” he said. But he expressed some polite impatience: “It is time to proceed from [debates about] ethical permissibility to describe the pathway to clinical translation … to get this technique forward.”

Referring to Han is apparently unauthorized and largely unregulated research, Daley said: “The fact that the first instance of human germ plan editing appeared as a mistake should not let us keep our head in the sand. Do not think that a single practitioner who opposes the standards of the field represents a failure of scientific self-regulation. “

Just minutes later, biologist Kathy Niakan described experiments that raised a big red flag about the use of CRISPR-Cas9 in embryos. She uses the technique (in donated IVF embryos, without the intention of establishing pregnancies) to disable some genes and learn what role they play in early human development.

According to inconclusive data, she introduced the technology, causing it as cold called “on-target complexities.” That is, CRISPR-Cas9 hit the gene it would, but in addition to doing the intended editing, the large deletions of DNA caused the loss or loss The profit of segments on the chromosome (6, in this case) containing the targeted gene.

“This is a significant new caution” to edit the genes of embryos, said Niakan.

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