El Litoral / AFP-NA
The Chinese scientist said on Monday that he had in vitro fertilization with modified genes that gave birth to AIDS-resistant twins, which caused ethical criticism as an act considered "dangerous" and "irresponsible."
Jiankui, a professor at the University of Shenzhen in southern China, has published a video on YouTube, in which a few weeks ago he announced the birth of two twins, whose DNA was modified to be immune to the AIDS virus. He said that the father is HIV positive.
Researcher, trained in Stanford in the United States and running a specialized laboratory in the genome in Shenzhen, explained that he used the Crispr-Cas9 technique, called "genetic scissors", which allows removing and replacing undesirable parts of the genome, like repairing a computer error.
Children, called "Lula" and "Nana", were born by in vitro fertilization of the modified embryo before implantation in the mother's womb.
"Immediately after injecting her husband's sperm into the egg, the embryologist injected the Crispr-Cas9 protein responsible for modifying the gene to protect girls from future HIV infection," explained Jiankui.
DNA modification genetically can be used to prevent disease, but this practice is problematic because genetic modifications will be inherited by new generations.
MIT Technology Review reminded that "technology has ethical responsibility."
The announcement of this medical experiment took place on the eve of the start of the world conference of genome experts in Hong Kong, during which the Chinese researcher must present its results in detail.
However, after receiving criticism, his intervention at the genetic congress is not guaranteed.
This self-proclaimed medical experiment has not been independently verified. The Chinese team did not publish the results in the scientific journal.
Experiment "very problematic"
After this statement, many Chinese scientists and institutions criticized this experiment.
The university where he works informs that he has stopped receiving remuneration from February and found that fertility with modified genes is "a violation of the ethical criteria of the academy and its norms".
"The research has been carried out outside the university," said University of Science and Technology of South.
A hundred Chinese scientists have also published a joint statement criticizing the experiment and calling for changes to the legislation on in vitro fertilization.
In addition, international researchers criticized that the announcement was announced using video on YouTube.
"Announcing these results in the video on YouTube is a very problematic scientific practice," lamented Nicholas Evans, a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the United States who is working on bioethical issues.
"This puts back the control processes on which many scientific advances are based, such as peer evaluation," he added, questioned by AFP.
Regardless of whether it is announced, this issue raises "serious ethical concerns," says Sarah Chan of the University of Edinburgh, cited by Science Media Center.
"Making such claims, apparently in order to deliberately seek the maximum of controversy (…) is irresponsible," he added.
He Jiankui did not immediately answer the AFP questions.