Chinese scientist defends child gene-editing research

Chinese scientist He Jiankui
Chinese scientist He Jiankui. Photo/CNN

The Chinese scientist who sparked an international outcry after alleging to have helped create the world’s first genetically edited babies has raised the possibility of a third child being born.

This is after announcing that a separate woman was pregnant at an early stage with a modified embryo.

Speaking in front of a packed hall of about 700 people Wednesday at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, He Jiankui publicly defended his work, saying he felt “proud” of his achievement.

He, an associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, sent shock waves through the scientific community on Monday.

He announced in a video online that two ostensibly healthy twin girls had been born this month from embryos altered to make them resistant to HIV.

“For this specific case, I feel proud. I feel proudest, because they had lost hope for life,” He said Wednesday of the parents of the twins, the father of whom is believed to carry HIV.

“But with this protection, [the father] sent a message saying he will work hard, earn money and take care of his two daughters and his wife.”

Asked whether his clinical trials had resulted in other pregnancies, He replied, “there is another one, another potential pregnancy.”

The academic did not disclose any further details regarding the possibility of a third genetically edited baby, other than answering “yes” when asked whether the pregnancy was still in an early stage.

He said his research has been submitted to a scientific journal for review, without naming the publication, and apologised for the result leaking “unexpectedly.”

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