The scientist, He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, says he used human embryos modified with the gene-editing technique CRISPR to create twin girls. Only one pregnancy resulted from the project, though He altered embryos for seven couples in total during fertility treatments.
In addition, Annas wrote, He focused on "a disease (susceptibility to HIV infection) that virtually no one things should be "cured" by gene editing (since it is both preventable and treatable by current practices)".
In an e-mail, Annas voiced skepticism of He's claim but said there are a number of ethical concerns if the researcher is, in fact, telling the truth. "He changed the code for the HIV receptor, for the AIDS receptor, into the cell and then that embryo was put into a woman", Agus said.
"We can ensure that the research wasn't conducted in our hospital nor were the babies born here", a hospital representative told CNN.
Dr. Eric Topol, who heads the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, said, "We're dealing with the operating instructions of a human being".
And, Annas wrote, He announced "his experiment to the press rather than in a peer reviewed journal, violating basic medical and scientific ethics (and also making it less likely that his experiment actually was done as announced)".
The Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China where He is an associate professor released a statement indicating the institution was unaware of He's research and that the scientist has been on unpaid leave since February of this year, circumstances that will continue through January 2021.
He said the parents involved declined to be identified or interviewed, and he would not say where they live or where the work was done. He did not report to the school or the department of biology.
The research was first detailed by MIT's Technology Review. That's one of the reasons why researchers are concerned about the report.
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Altering genes in sperm, eggs or embryos means those changes can be passed down to future generations - people who would have no way to consent to those changes.
In addition, more than 100 scientists signed a petition for greater oversight on gene editing experiments in light of Jiankui's claim and city officials where the lab is located have also launched a medical and ethics investigation. It is unknown whether the procedure is safe or, if used in pregnancy, whether it can have unintended consequences for the babies later in life or for future generations.
But this is not the first time Chinese researchers have experimented with human embryo technology, and last September scientists at Sun Yat-sen University used an adapted version of gene-editing to correct a disease-causing mutation in human embryos.
"The medical ethics review exists in the name only". But, according to the Associated Press, other researchers denounced the research as human experimentation. "It's extremely unfair to Chinese scientist who are diligent, innovative and defending the bottom line of scientific ethics".
"If true, this experiment is monstrous", he said.
"The embryos were healthy - no known diseases", he said. "And there are effective treatments if one does contract it", Savulescu said.
In a first, genetically edited babies have been welcomed by the world.
In the videos, He defended his work, saying in one: "I understand my work will be controversial, but I believe families need this technology".
Yalda Jamshidi, senior lecturer in human genetics at St George's, University of London, pointed out that such controversial research is not necessary for preventing HIV. The goal was to genetically "vaccinate" the babies against HIV infection. Even publication is no guarantee of truth, as the 2006 South Korean human cloning fakery should remind us.
The gene editing occurred during IVF, or lab dish fertilization.