It’s the baby news that sparked outrage in the scientific community.
A Chinese scientist claims to have created the world’s first genetically-modified babies by altering the DNA of human embryos. He Jiankui says the twin girls are now genetically resistant to HIV.
Steven Ward, director of UH’s Institute for Biogenesis Research, says he was appalled to learn of the news.
“It is hard to see it as other than a stunt. It really takes away the credibility of all the scientists who are trying to do good with this,” he said.
Dr. Jennifer Doudna, a pioneer of the CRISPR gene editing technology and a Hilo High graduate, also spoke out against the experiment that didn’t follow scientific protocols and has not been verified.
“I think it’s a break from what was recommended by the report released by the National Academy of Science last year, 2017, that encouraged an open and transparent approach to any clinical use of human embryo editing,” she said.
Doudna spoke at UH Hilo and the UH Cancer Center in September, warning of the technology’s misuse.
“People forging ahead to make CRSPR babies that’s a little creepy to me,” said Doudna, at UH Hilo.
“I feel a strong responsibility that it’s not just to make a first, but also make it an example,” He Jiankui told the Associated Press. He added: “Society will decide what to do next.”
Jesse Owens is an assistant professor at UH’s Institute for Biogenesis Research and is trying to make CRISPR technology safer. He says gene therapy could have medical benefits for adults, but not on human embryos.
“If you have a child that child’s child will have that same mutation and that child’s child, it will go on forever. That’s the line that nobody crosses,” he said.