The Human Genetic Edition Congress of Hong Kong, where the Chinese scientist He Jiankui he has defended his experiment with viable human embryos, to which he modified his genes so that two AIDS-resistant twins were born, has closed with a declaration of condemnation considering the investigation "deeply disturbing" and "irresponsible".
"Even if the modifications were verified, the procedure was irresponsible and contravenes all international standards," says the final resolution of the congress organizing committee, which ended this week in Hong Kong.
The resolution calls for an independent evaluation of the investigations of He Jiankui, who has argued that he altered using Crisp Cas9 technology the gene that uses the AIDS virus as a gateway to the immune system in two embryos fertilized in vitro and from which two girls were born, According to the scientist, they are well. I have has also admitted a second fecundation with altered genes.
These investigations have not been contrasted by any independent scientist or any of the institutions to which the geneticist is linked or any ethical committee has acknowledged that they were informed of the experiments, as established by the standards.
Last monday, the surprise announcement of birth For the first time, two genetically modified babies caused a great commotion within the international scientific community. He Jiankui appeared in a video posted on the network in which he explained an experiment that, apparently, had been carried out in secret and without the appropriate ethical and clinical requirements.
On Wednesday, it was his first public appearance Since he revealed that he had successfully altered the DNA of two newborn twins - Nana and Lulu - in their embryonic stage to make them resistant to the infection of the AIDS virus, He was proud of his supposed achievement and balked against criticism by admitting that maybe it is "the only way to cure some disease". But his speech did not convince part of the audience.
He should have participated on Thursday in another panel of the congress of specialists, but finally canceled his appearance "by own decision", according to assured the Nobel Prize of Medicine David Baltimore, one of the organizers of the summit of geneticists.
Numerous experts have warned about the consequences that this modification can have on humans in future generations. "By doing this, He is changing the human gene pool, we may not see the impact of this until several generations later," said Dennis Lo Yuk-ming, chairman of the Department of Chemical Pathology at the University of China in Hong Kong. . He said there is still no academic consensus to carry out this type of test in humans.
However, the path to achieving that agreement could begin to be shaped by recent events. The congress's own organizing committee pointed out that, despite these difficulties and evident risks, "the progress in the last three years and the discussions at the current summit suggest that it is time to define a rigorous and responsible path towards such trials".
From the other side of the Pacific, the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine of the United States, Marcia McNutt and Victor Dzau, also expressed their concern to later point out that "what happened in Hong Kong this week clearly demonstrates the need for us to develop more specific standards and principles that can be agreed upon by the international scientific community. "
But finding consensus among scientists from different parts of the globe is not an easy task. As the specialist in Bioethics Sarah Chan said today, "we can not consider the international scientific community as a single and unified body, it is a compendium in which there is a lot of diversity". For that reason, "we must be sensitive to different situations in different contexts" without forgetting that this type of evidence -made without transparency- "goes beyond what is acceptable".
While waiting for these intentions to come to fruition, He has paralyzed his experiments. The reason: the scandal generated after the announcement and the barrage of criticism after the institutions and hospitals involved in the process denied their participation and an investigation will begin to try to clarify the steps followed by the Chinese scientist.