Chinese scientist He Jiankui defends 'world's first gene-edited babies'

Published: November 28, 2018 13:12:27 | Updated: November 30, 2018 18:52:35

Scientists He Jiankui speaks during an interview at a laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China. Photo: Collected

A Chinese scientist who claims to have created the world's first genetically edited babies has defended his work.

Speaking at a genome summit in Hong Kong, He Jiankui, an associate professor at a Shenzhen university, said he was "proud" of his work.

He said "another potential pregnancy" of a gene-edited embryo was in its early stages.

His claims, which have caused widespread outrage, have yet to be independently verified.

Prof He's university - the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen - said it was unaware of the research project and would launch an investigation.

It was first announced earlier this week that Prof He had altered the DNA of embryos - twin girls - to prevent them from contracting HIV.

His claims were widely criticised by other scientists, who called the idea monstrous. Such work is banned in most countries.

'Normal and healthy'

On Wednesday Prof He spoke to an audience for the first time about his work since the uproar.

He revealed that the twin girls - known as "Lulu" and "Nana" - were "born normal and healthy", adding that there were plans to monitor the twins over the next 18 years.

He explained that eight couples - comprised of HIV-positive fathers and HIV-negative mothers - had signed up voluntarily for the experiment; one couple later dropped out.

He added that he had initially funded the experiment by himself, BBC reports.

Prof He also said that the study had been submitted to a scientific journal for review, though he did not name the journal.

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