A DAN­GER­OUS PATH

For­eign­ers in Shang­hai share their opin­ions on em­bry­onic stem cell re­search

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - CITY PANORAMA - Page Ed­i­tor: chen­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn

Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties on Novem­ber 29 or­dered sus­pend­ing re­search ac­tiv­i­ties of per­sons in­volved in the gene-edited ba­bies in­ci­dent, de­nounc­ing the mat­ter as “ex­tremely abom­inable in na­ture” and in vi­o­la­tion of Chi­nese laws and sci­ence ethics, Xin­hua News Agency re­ported.

The gene-edited twins mat­ter re­ported by the me­dia has brazenly vi­o­lated Chi­nese laws and reg­u­la­tions and breached the eth­i­cal bot­tom line, which is both shock­ing and un­ac­cept­able, Xu Nan­ping, vice min­is­ter of the Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, told Xin­hua.

China’s Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion and the China As­so­ci­a­tion for Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy also spoke against the in­ci­dent.

He Jiankui, a Chi­nese re­searcher based in Shen­zhen, South China’s Guang­dong Prov­ince, claimed on Novem­ber 26 to have al­tered the DNA of twin girls born a few weeks ago to pre­vent them from con­tract­ing HIV. His claim re­mains un­proven but the in­ci­dent has trig­gered heated de­bate in the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity and on so­cial me­dia.

Thus, the Global Times re­cently asked some for­eign­ers in Shang­hai about their opin­ions on the ex­per­i­ment.

Against na­ture?

El­iz­a­beth, a 34-year-old woman from the US, heard about the news and told the Global Times that she doesn’t sup­port this ex­per­i­ment be­cause it’s an ethics vi­o­la­tion. Ac­cord­ing to El­iz­a­beth, there are many HIV drugs and re­searchers work­ing hard in the field, and many Chi­nese sci­en­tists have al­ready agreed to treat the dis­ease in that way. “I hope they take more time and work on se­quenc­ing ge­nomics in dif­fer­ent ways be­fore they mod­ify and change hu­man life,” El­iz­a­beth said.

Gilles from France told us that it is not good. “You know where you start but you don’t know what will be the fi­nal des­ti­na­tion.”

Ar­naud from Bel­gium told the Global Times that it is against na­ture to change cells, al­though “it is well in­tended to cure HIV.”

When asked whether the work is un­eth­i­cal, some in­ter­vie­wees said it is. “It should be no ex­cep­tion,” Chris from Den­mark told the Global Times, adding that he doesn’t sup­port gene ma­nip­u­la­tion no mat­ter if it’s in China or the rest of the world.

“It’s a dan­ger­ous path, be­cause then peo­ple can make gene ma­nip­u­la­tions for any­thing,” Chris said. “It’s not a nat­u­ral hu­man thing to ma­nip­u­late genes.”

Sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments were echoed by Mar­in­belle, who holds the view that it’s against na­ture.

Michael from Aus­tralia told the Global Times that he doesn’t think the ex­per­i­ment is un­eth­i­cal, ex­plain­ing that if sci­en­tists can learn how to change genes for the bet­ter, “why not do it?”

Alex, a Span­ish nutri­tion­ist and phys­i­cal trainer, said “We need to be care­ful.” He does not agree that peo­ple should be to­tally ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied to be­come more in­tel­li­gent or taller.

This story was writ­ten by Yao Ji­ay­ing based on a Global Times video and a re­port by Xin­hua.

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