US biologist: Gene-editing work a failure of self-regulation

US biologist: Gene-editing work a failure of self-regulation
Feng Zhang, center, an institute member of Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute, reacts to reporters on the issue of world's first genetically edited babies after the Human Genome Editing Conference in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. He Jiankui, a Chinese researcher, claims that he helped make the world's first genetically edited babies twin girls whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life. If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

A leader of an international conference on gene editing said Wednesday that the work of a Chinese scientist who claims to have helped make the world's first gene-edited babies showed a failure of self-regulation among scientists.

Nobel laureate David Baltimore said the work of the scientist who made the claim would "be considered irresponsible" because it did not meet criteria many scientists agreed on several years ago before could be considered.

Baltimore spoke at an international in Hong Kong, where the Chinese scientist, He Jiankui (HEH JEE-ahn-qway) of Shenzhen, made his first public comments since his work was revealed.

He said the twin girls were born this month. He said they were conceived to try to help them resist possible future infection with the AIDS virus.

Baltimore said he didn't think that was medically necessary. He said the case showed "there has been a failure of self-regulation by the " and said the conference committee would meet and issue a statement on Thursday about the future of the field.

Another prominent American scientist speaking at the conference, Harvard Medical School dean Dr. George Daley, warned against a backlash to He's claim. Daley said it would be unfortunate if a misstep with a first case led scientists and regulators to reject the good that could come from altering DNA to treat or prevent diseases.

US biologist: Gene-editing work a failure of self-regulation
Feng Zhang, center, an institute member of Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute, is surrounded by reporters while speaking on the issue of world's first genetically edited babies after the Human Genome Editing Conference in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. He Jiankui, a Chinese researcher, claims that he helped make the world's first genetically edited babies twin girls whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life. If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

He has said his lab used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR to alter the DNA of human embryos.

There is not yet independent confirmation of his claim, but scientists and regulators have been swift to condemn the experiment as unethical and unscientific.

The National Health Commission has ordered local officials in Guangdong province to investigate He's actions, and his employer, Southern University of Science and Technology, is investigating as well.

US biologist: Gene-editing work a failure of self-regulation
Feng Zhang, center, an institute member of Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute, speaks to reporters on the issue of world's first genetically edited babies after the Human Genome Editing Conference in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. He Jiankui, a Chinese researcher, claims that he helped make the world's first genetically edited babies twin girls whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life. If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

The Chinese researcher said he practiced editing mice, monkey and human embryos in the lab for several years and has applied for patents on his methods.

He said he chose embryo gene editing for HIV because these infections are a big problem in China. He sought to disable a gene called CCR5 that forms a protein doorway that allows HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to enter a cell.


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Gene-edited baby claim by Chinese scientist sparks outrage

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Nov 28, 2018
One needs to understand the clear evolutionary implications here:
There is no absolute arbiter of what is right or wrong (or good or bad/evil ) in the evolutionary worldview, hence this kind of behaviour is perfectly consistent with that worldview.
After all, who gets to make the rules? And who cares? If there is no God to whom the individual is responsible to then internal self-regulation is just so much hot gas and people can do whatever they want. Sure there could be a collective agreement among others to boycott these researchers but that would just be someone else trying to force their viewpoint on them - and who is to say the enforcers have any RIGHT to do so?

Nov 28, 2018
Similarly alcoholism is a failure of self regulation.

And so is mass murder, rape, child molestation, etc. etc. etc.

This is why laws are developed.

Self regulation doesn't work, and that is why Conservatives demand that Corporations be left to regulate themselves.


Nov 29, 2018
and who is to say the enforcers have any RIGHT to do so?


Who says they haven't?

Works both ways. Hence why, it becomes a matter of public debate and agreement. Morals and ethics are bartered: if you want others to follow your rules, you must agree to follow their rules and wishes in return. Otherwise you have no "moral currency" to make any demands, and hypocritical people essentially just harm themselves by cheating, because they devalue their own moral authority. Even if you're technically correct and logical, other people may choose not to follow your ideas because they find you're cheating elsewhere and want to punish you.

Once you understand this, a lot of human interaction starts to make a lot more sense. Religions, ideologies and -isms too are just a means to pretend that you have more moral currency than the other guy.

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