Hong Kong –
A Chinese researcher said Monday he had a in vitro fertilization with modified genes which gave birth to AIDS-resistant twins, an ad that provoked ethical criticism by an act "dangerous" and "irresponsible".
El Jiankui, a professor at the University of Shenzhen in southern China, posted a video on YouTube announcing the birth of two twins a few weeks ago whose DNA was changed. so that they are resistant to the AIDS virus. He specified that the father is HIV positive.
The researcher, trained at Stanford in the United States and leading a genome lab in Shenzhen, explained that he had the Crispr-Cas9 technique, called "genetic scissors" which allows the elimination and replacement of unwanted parts of the genome as a computer failure is corrected.
Babies, named "Lula" and "Nana," were born by in vitro fertilization of a modified embryo prior to being implanted in the mother's womb.
"Immediately after injecting her husband's egg sperm, an embryologist injected a Crispr-Cas9 protein responsible for modifying a gene to protect the girls from a future HIV infection," El Jiankui explained.
Genetic modification of a DNA may be useful for avoiding diseases, but this practice is problematic because genetic changes will be inherited by new generations.
Analysis of MIT technology reminded that "technology has an ethical responsibility".
The announcement of this medical experiment came on the eve of a conference of Hong Kong world genome experts, during which the Chinese researcher must present his results in detail.
However, after criticism, its intervention in this genetic congress is not guaranteed.
This self-proclaimed medical experiment It was not independently verified. The Chinese team did not publish their results in a scientific journal.
– A "very problematic" experiment
After the announcement, many Chinese scientists and institutions have criticized this experiment.
The university she's been working on has reported that she has stopped receiving her February salary and considered that herding with modified genes was "a violation of the ethical criteria of the academy and its norms."
"This research has been done outside the university," the South University of Technology and Technology said in a statement Monday.
A hundred Chinese scientists have also published a joint statement in which they criticized the experiment and have called for changes to legislation on in vitro fertilization.
In addition, international researchers have criticized the fact that the ad was made through a video on YouTube
"Announcing these results in a video on YouTube is a very problematic science," asks Nicholas Evans, professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the United States, working on bioethics.
"This removes the control processes on which many scientific advances are based, such as peer review," he added, questioned by AFP.
Whether it's announced or not, the subject raises "serious ethical concerns"; says Sarah Chan of the University of Edinburgh, quoted by the Science Media Center.
"Making such statements, apparently deliberately seeking a maximum of controversy (…) is irresponsible," he added.
He Jiankui did not respond immediately to AFP questions. (I)