A researcher in China’s Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen has claimed that he has created the world’s first gene-edited designer babies. The claim comes as a surprise, as the ethics and safety of this particular form of gene editing are still under debate.
Prof He Jiankui says the twin girls, born a few weeks ago, had their DNA altered as embryos to prevent them from contracting HIV. His claims, filmed by Associated Press, are unverified and have sparked outrage from other scientists, who have called the idea monstrous. Such work is banned in most countries.
Gene editing could potentially help avoid heritable diseases by deleting or changing troublesome coding in embryos. But experts worry meddling with the genome of an embryo could cause harm not only to the individual but also future generations that inherit these same changes.