The researcher, He Jiankui, offered no evidence or data to back up his assertions. If true, some fear the feat could open the door to “designer babies.”
Ever since scientists created the powerful gene editing technique Crispr, they have braced apprehensively for the day when it would be used to create a genetically altered human being. Many nations banned such work, fearing it could be misused to alter everything from eye color to I.Q.
Now, the moment they feared may have come. On Monday, a scientist in China announced that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies, twin girls who were born this month.
The researcher, He Jiankui, said that he had altered a gene in the embryos, before having them implanted in the mother’s womb, with the goal of making the babies resistant to infection with H.I.V. He has not published the research in any journal and did not share any evidence or data that definitively proved he had done it.
But his previous work is known to many experts in the field, who said — many with alarm — that it was entirely possible he had.
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