Fac­ing doubts, sci­en­tist sub­mits gene-edit­ing pro­to­cols

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By SHAN JUAN shan­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese bi­ol­o­gist Han Chunyu has pro­vided his ex­per­i­men­tal data to Na­ture as re­quested to help peer re­searchers repli­cate his work, but the con­tro­versy has not gone away, ac­cord­ing to the jour­nal’s web­site.

Mean­while Han has been work­ing to repli­cate his own work.

The in­ci­dent now is evolv­ing into a bat­tle be­tween the widely rec­og­nized gene edit­ing tool CRISPR-Cas9 and a po­ten­tially bet­ter sub­sti­tute called NgAgo, pre­sented by Han, a ge­neti­cist at He­bei Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy.

Three months ago, Han re­ported that theen­zymeNgAgo can be used to edit hu­man genes, and an ar­ti­cle was pub­lished in Na­ture Biotech­nol­ogy. How­ever, some re­searchers said they had been un­able to repli­cateHan’s work.

The jour­nal, in re­sponse, ini­ti­ated an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and askedHan last week to sub­mit his ex­per­i­men­tal pro­to­cols and orig­i­nal data. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still un­der­way.

One of the pro­to­cols warned that the mag­ne­sium level in cells needed to be main­tained.

Gae­tan Bur­gio, a ge­neti­cist at Aus­tralianNa­tion­alUniver­sity in Can­berra, told Na­ture there was lit­tle newin the pro­to­colHan shared.

“That­doesn’tmakeany­sense to me,” he said. Bur­gio re­ported on his blog that he had failed to repli­cate Han’s re­sults, which fur­ther pushed the con­tro­versy into the world­wide spot­light.

A Chi­nese bi­ol­ogy re­searcher in Bei­jing who asked for anonymity told China Daily thatHan’s up­dat­ing of his pro­to­col is a good start.

“Sci­ence and re­search is hard and takes time. We should al­low for more time and patience,” the re­searcher said.

Lluis Mon­toliu, a ge­neti­cist at the Span­ishNa­tional Cen­tre for Biotech­nol­ogy in Madrid, pre­vi­ously rec­om­mended in an email to col­leagues at the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety for Trans­genic Tech­nolo­gies that any project in­volv­ing the use of NgAgo for gene edit­ing should be aban­doned.

It’s to “avoid wast­ing time, money, an­i­mals and the email said.

The Bei­jing re­searcher, how­ever, said ef­forts to push sci­ence ahead should never stop. “It’s still too early to give a death sen­tence to NgAgo,” the re­searcher said.

Han is known for fo­cus­ing on his re­search and main­tain­ing a low-key life­style. The ar­ti­cle about him on Na­ture’s web­site said he didn’t like to travel, and a trip to visit a col­lab­o­ra­tor in Hangzhou in March was the first time the 42-year-old had ever boarded a plane. peo­ple”,

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