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The Nobel Prize winner of genetically engineered babies was told 7 months before the public announcement


January 30, 2019 4:47:34 PM

Long before the claim of the first babies edited by genes in the world became public, Chinese researcher He Jiankui shared news with a US Nobel Prize winner who opposed the experiment, but continued to be an adviser of the biotechnology company Dr He.

Key points:

  • The emails obtained by The Associated Press reveal that Professor Craig Mello explained about the experiment in April 2018
  • The Chinese researcher Dr. He tried to alter the genes of twin girls to help them withstand possible future HIV infections, the AIDS virus
  • Professor Mello, who won a 2006 Nobel Prize for Genetic Research, had expressed concern about the health risks

The revelation that another prominent scientist knew about the work, which was widely condemned when it was revealed, comes as scientists debate whether and how to warn about disturbing research and the need for clearer guidelines.

The emails obtained by The Associated Press under a request for public records show that the winner of the Nobel Laureate Craig Mello from the University of Massachusetts learned about pregnancy last April from Dr He in a message titled "Success".

"I am happy for you, but I would rather not be up-to-date," Professor Mello replied.

"You are risking the health of the child you are editing … I do not see why you are doing this. I hope that your patient is lucky enough to have a healthy pregnancy."

Professor Mello stayed as a scientific advisor to the company Dr. I have Direct Genomics for eight more months until December, leaving just after the news of births was made public and caused international contempt.

The Chinese scientist's work of editing was not a business experiment.

Dr. He tried to alter the genes of twin girls to help them withstand possible future infections with the AIDS virus, HIV.

Several American researchers are going to know or suspect strongly. Dr. He was considering embryo gene editing, but his disclosure to Professor Mello in April is remarkable because he specified that the pregnancy had reached and reached day that he himself said he knew it.

There is no certain way to stop an experienced dishonest scientist

Embryo editing intended for pregnancy is not allowed in the United States or many other places due to the risk of harming other genes and is concerned that these DNA changes may occur to future generations .

But there is no particular way to prevent a dishonest scientist from experimenting, regardless of the existing rules, because the technology of gene editing is cheap and easy to use.

It is not clear how someone would have raised concerns about Dr. I have said the bioethics of the University of Wisconsin Alta Charo, who was one of the leaders of the gene conference in Hong Kong where the Dr. gave details of the experiment.

Dr Ell's work has not been published in a scientific journal.

The bioethicist at the University of Minnesota, Leigh Turner, said that the lack of action of scientists who learned from Dr. He's intentions indicates a broader culture of silence.

"It seems that there have been many missed opportunities," Turner said.

Last week, state-owned media in China reported that the Dr could face consequences after the researchers determined that he acted alone and made an ethical review on the part of others.

The Xinhua report said that twins and people involved in a second continuous pregnancy with a genetic embryo will remain under medical observation with regular visits supervised by government health departments. Efforts to get Dr. was not successful.

Professor Mello kept others in the dark

Professor Mello declines interview requests. In statements through his university, Professor Mello said he had no idea that Dr. "was personally interested" in the editing of human genes or had the means to eliminate it and that his discussions were "hypothetical and broad".

Professor Mello repeated his disapproval for the Dr.'s project. I have said he resigned from the Scientific Advisory Board of Direct Genomics, as he considered that a company led by the Dr could no longer be effective.

Professor Mello said that he started being part of the council in October 2017 and said he did not accept compensation for the paper.

A representative from his university said that teachers could use science counseling advice.

Professor Mello pays the Medical Institute Howard Hughes, who also supports the Department of Health and Sciences of AP. Professor Mello's work with Direct Genomics was not a HHMI representative, according to the university and an HHMI attorney's email to Dr. He

According to a statement provided by the University of Massachusetts, Dr approached Professor Mello during a rest at a business meeting in November 2017 to discuss the possibility of using the powerful tool for CRISPR gene editing to prevent HIV infection from parents to children.

The statement said Professor Mello said that he had no idea about Dr. intention. You have to try.

After the meeting, emails show that Professor Mello connected Dr. I have a colleague, the expert in infectious diseases, Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga, for advice on "pediatric HIV transmission risks for a therapy that she is contemplating."

Dr. Luzuriaga replied that he was looking forward to talking.

You have not responded to the interview requests.

The University of Massachusetts published a statement that said Dr. Luzuriaga and Dr. had a short telephone call, and I did not know the advice he was offering, it could be for Dr. El's work on embryos edited by genes.

In April, the doctor sent an email to Professor Mello, saying: "Good news … pregnancy is confirmed." The doctor asked Professor Mello to keep the news confidential.

Professor Mello, who won a Nobel Prize in 2006 for genetic research, expressed his concern about the health risks.

"I think you are risking and I do not want anyone to think that I approve of what you are doing," he wrote. "I'm sorry I can not be more supportive of this effort, I know you mean good."

The emails show that Professor Mello attended another Direct Genomics meeting in China in November, about a week before the Hong Kong conference where Dr. I made your claim public.

Professor Mello's statement said he resigned from the company's scientific advisory council on December 6.




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January 30, 2019 4:46:31 PM

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