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Academic ‘broke bottom line of morality’ with gene-edited babies

Image: Leigh Prather, via Shutterstock      

Chinese authorities say they have halted the work of a researcher who claims to have produced the world’s first gene-edited humans, as the international backlash against the work grows.

In a video uploaded to YouTube on 25 November, genetics researcher He Jiankui announced the birth of twins who he claimed to have genetically altered to make resistant to HIV infection. He defended his controversial work on 28 November at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, after its announcement provoked a backlash from researchers in China and around the world.

On 29 November, Xu Nanping, vice-minister of science and technology, told state news agency Xinhua that the work violated Chinese laws and ethics. Chinese authorities have suspended the research activities of those involved, he said, and would be launching an official investigation into He’s claims. 

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