Gene-edited babies living happily with parents, says scientist who created them

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Hong Kong, Feb 7

The controversial Chinese scientist, who created world's first gene-edited babies in 2018 and 2019 and was jailed for three years, has come out in the open, saying the genetically-edited children are living happily with their parents.

In an interview with The South China Morning Post, He Jiankui said they have a normal, peaceful, and undisturbed life.

"This is their wish and we should respect them. The happiness of the children and their families should come first," Hu was quoted as saying in the report.

Asked if he worried about the children's future, the scientist said: "You will have high expectations of them, but you also have huge unease."

In December 2019, a Chinese court sentenced Jiankui to three years in prison for violating medical regulations by using a gene-editing tool called 'CRISPR-Cas9'.

In 2018, Hu stunned the world when he announced that he had created two genetically modified twin girls, nicknamed Lulu and Nana.

A third child, Amy, was born the following year, also in China.

He used the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to rewrite the CCR5 gene, which is known to confer resistance to HIV because of a genetic mutation.

"After the age of 18, the children will decide whether to do medical follow-ups for their individual needs. We committed to doing this for their lifetimes," the scientist told the publication.

He now wants to set up a charitable foundation to raise money and cover health-related expenses for the three children.

The scientist has been invited to visit the University of Oxford next month to give talks about the use of CRISPR gene-editing technology in reproductive medicine.

He has set up a new laboratory in Beijing to work on affordable gene therapies for rare genetic diseases, said the report.

His experiments, which were carried out on seven embryos in late 2018, had sent shockwaves through the medical and scientific world.

--IANS

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