We all know the story that is enriched every day on new piece, I talk about the story of girls with modified DNA born a few weeks ago in China, and at the same time the impression of never completely grasping it. During his speech at the Second International Summit on the Editing of the Human Genome in Hong Kong, Chinese scientist He Jiankui admitted, pressed by a question in the room, that a second pregnancy with a genetically modified embryo is underway, though still ” in the early stages “.
Her research group has so far modified, with the CRISPR / Cas9 molecular scissors, the DNA of 30 embryos that have developed in the blastocyst phase (one of the first stages of embryogenesis, which precedes the implantation in the tissue that covers the uterus). The editing worked on 70% of the embryos, which would be waiting for further screening to be implanted in five pairs.
IN BECOME AND IN STAND-BY. Now the trial has been blocked, considering the dust generated by the announcement that – predictably – would have inflamed the international scientific community. But, it seems, another genetically modified baby could be born soon; is not clear the fate of the embryos edited (twenty?), which are currently frozen – waiting for you to decide what to do.
PART OF A SYSTEM? Jiankui, who is currently being investigated for the incident by both his university and other institutions in China, has been harshly criticized for violating any international ethical standards regarding genetic editing, starting with the international moratorium on the generation of genetically modified children signed in the first edition of the same conference, in 2015.
It is unlikely, however, to have acted alone, although when asked why he acted in secret, without consulting with the authorities or other colleagues, the scientist replied that he had submitted the idea of the trial to at least four experts, including a professor in the USA and one in China, the identity of which is not known. And to have acted in secret beyond the limits of the allowed to “make history” in biology.
The impression is that much still needs to be known, but on why the scientist has chosen to talk right now, to things done, and on the eve of a meeting that would have gathered great media response, it will be necessary to make a reflection.
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