China tells scientists to halt experiment on gene-edited babies

China’s science ministry on Thursday ordered researchers involved in baby gene-editing experiment to immediately halt their work, state broadcaster CCTV said citing an official.

The order comes after a scientist He Jiankui proudly announced at a conference on Wednesday that he altered the DNA of twin girls born to an HIV-positive father to prevent them from contracting the disease. He even described it a medical breakthrough.

The country’s National Health Commission is investigating He’s claims. It said such experiments violate China’s laws, regulations, and ethical standards and are, hence, illegal and unacceptable.

Scientists within and outside the country said He’s experiment of editing and implanting human embryos is disturbing, premature and dangerous.

Organisers of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong on Thursday called him irresponsible.

Bai Hua, leader of an HIV support group in Beijing, told RTHK he regretted introducing some 50 families to He for the trial.

Two of the families involved in the trial said the research team headed by He made them believe that the chance of success was high, and that risks were low.