A little over a week ago, The Goldwater reported on a Chinese researcher who claimed to have successfully completed a study which genetically edited human babies to be more resistant to HIV. The use of the gene editing technology on human fetuses has been a bit of a taboo subject in the U.S. with only the fringe scientists daring go near the topic.
The Chinese researcher He Jiankui revealed the breakthrough birth of the gene edited babies at the Second International Summit On Human Genome Editing which took place at the end of November. Jiankui revealed last week that he had successfully altered embryos for seven volunteer couples during fertility treatments. The news shocked even the summit's organizers who were unaware of what Jiankui planned to announce.
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He told the summit that two of the edited embryos were born healthy twin baby girls. It's not quite clear what happened to the other babies or if they have been born yet, but Jiankui had no independent confirmation of the results. Not long after the summit, the Chinese government arrested Jiankui and began an investigation. Reports from Chinese media said the researcher was put on house arrest.
The last time Jiankui was seen was Wednesday during an appearance at a conference in Hong Kong. The Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen where Jiankui is employed denied that he was detained by authorities. The South China Morning Post reported
a spokeswoman for the Southern University of Science and Technology said, "Right now nobody’s information is accurate, only the official channels are."
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She did not offer any further insight into Jiankui's whereabouts adding, "We cannot answer any questions regarding the matter right now, but if we have any information, we will update it through our official channels." On Thursday, the Chinese government ordered a halt to all of Jiankui and his team's research.
Xu Nanping, China's Vice Minister of Science and Technology, told state media outlet CCTV Thursday that he and his ministry is strongly opposed to the gene-editing that was allegedly used on the twin girls. Nanping added that the team's actions were illegal and unacceptable. An investigation has been ordered into Jiankui's work at the University and a number of mainstream scientists also condemned their study.
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