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A Chinese scientist claims to have created the world's first genetically edited babies: Twin girls who are resistant to HIV. The results of He Jiankui’s experiment have yet to be independently verified, but have nonetheless sparked condemnation in the scientific community and conversations about how a powerful gene editing tool known as CRISPR should be used.
He's gene editing was carried out in secret and ignored international norms for embryonic experiments. His announcement at a global gene editing conference in Hong Kong last week shocked scientists, including Nobel Prize-winning biologist David Baltimore, who called He's scientific claim a "failure of self-regulation by the scientific community".
CRISPR gene editing is considered controversial because edits made to the genome could be passed on to future generations. Scientists are currently exploring ways to use gene editing to prevent incurable hereditary diseases such as Alzheimer's and ALS.
What else could gene editing achieve and what are the ethical and safety issues that need to be considered before it is applied in more humans?
On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Alex Pearlman @lexikon1
Dr. Fyodor Urnov @UrnovFyodor
Gene editor, Innovative Genomics Institute
Glenn Cohen @CohenProf
Faculty director, Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology & Bioethics, Harvard University
Beyond safety questions, gene editing will force us to deal with a moral quandary - STAT
Despite CRISPR baby controversy, Harvard University will begin gene-editing sperm - MIT Technology Review