The Birth of Lulu and Nana – the first two babies believed to have been born with Crispr-processed DNA – have sparked the search for souls in China, as tech innovators, scientific researchers and government bureaucrats contradictory Reconciling values.  First, the Chinese media celebrated Jiankui He, the scientist who announced last week that he had edited the girls' DNA. Some experts even speculated on whether a Nobel Prize is due. But within a few hours history began to change, and the narrative that appeared across the mainland was cautious and blameworthy. While Chinese scientists and technologists are trying to drive forward innovative research, they are also hampered by government officials who are aware of ethical sensitivity in China and abroad.
The WIRED Guide to Crispr
If The news of the gene-editing experiment for human embryos reached primarily science-oriented readers in the US, in China its effect was far greater. On Weibo, a popular Chinese platform, 1
Chinese scientists, however, did not jump to a praise He. Some of them began to reprimand social media. Zhengzhong Qu, a gene editor from China, criticized researchers using "marketing gimmicks" to become famous, pointing to He's decision to publish promotional videos of his work on YouTube. Qu also criticized Hes' choice of DNA alterations that were made to give girls integrated HIV resistance. "This has no relevance in clinical practice: There are already mature and effective techniques to protect a baby from the HIV infections of its parents," he wrote at WeChat. "More risk than benefit in this case."
The Southern University of Science and Technology, where he is a professor, said it was "deeply shocked by this event" and initiated an investigation. The government also weighs, "China has banned the reproductive use of gene processing in human embryos," said Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Nanping Xu.
For outsiders, the reaction to He & # 3939; s threesomes babies may seem like a departure from the pace of speed at any cost, which in recent years has seemed to characterize Chinese innovation. However, a national rebranding campaign is under way. "Made in China", a label associated with cheap drawbacks, piracy and stolen intellectual property, is being replaced by "Created in China". The gene editing panel is an excellent example of how this dynamic develops.
Much of the action takes place in Shenzhen, the city he works in, which triggered the idea of "Shenzhen Speed." In the eighties, skyscrapers sprouted faster than anywhere else in the world. Workers looking for better future opportunities in iPhone factories were pouring out of rural China into Shenzhen.
Immense speed comes at a cost. The development of the city was hindered by an obsession with progress: in 2015, 17 buildings collapsed dramatically as a landslide of rubble buried industrial buildings and workers' housing. The risk of careless handling of genes could be even greater. However, Shenzhen Speed has also been applied to the pace of biotechnology – reshaping life itself. Chinese synthetic biologists have used Crispr to make micro-pigs, humanized monkeys, and big-muscle dogs. A Shenzhen company called BGI, which is said to be the largest genomics organization in the world, is a major player in DNA sequencing. BGI strives to sequence every human being and every form of life, and strives to "write from writing to synthesis" (19659006). However, some of these bold sayings were tempered after the Crispr baby scandal. "We really need to be careful not to do that," says Xin Liu, Associate Director of BGI. Together with 53 other Chinese biotechnology companies, BGI made a joint statement: "We must avoid the absolute pursuit of rapid success in innovation and development, and work to strengthen the industry's self-discipline." These companies now say they are striving to "really make the life sciences and technology beneficial to humanity."
In China (and elsewhere) experiments are being carried out on gene processing of human embryos – but now for research purposes only. At a summit on genome editing in Hong Kong last week, Junjiu Huang, a biologist at Sun Yat-sen University, discussed how he had cloned human embryos and repaired a defective gene that caused beta-thalassemia, a blood disorder. However, Huang ended his conversation with a sharp condemnation of "the use of genetic editions of human embryos for reproduction purposes, which violates Chinese laws, regulations, and medical ethics."
Huang himself triggered a controversy in April 2015, using Crispr to create the world's first genetically engineered embryo. This incident sparked international outrage, but received only a cautious response in China. Secular Chinese ethics are based on Confucian thought, which assumes that a person becomes a person after birth, not before. So Huang was in free space, but when he gave birth to breastfed embryos he crossed an ethical boundary. The laws on gene manipulation were confusing in China before his experiment, but officials are quickly setting new rules. The government has now banned the use of Crispr for reproduction, claiming that basic embryonic research will continue.
A bioethicist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Renzong Qiu, called on attendees of the summit to "protect the future child's interest" and asked the Chinese government to "lay down specific rules for the application of genome editing to the human reproduction ". This would include a licensing system and ethical guidelines to prevent eugenic uses of the technology.
Asian innovations in biotechnology redefine the horizon of possibilities for the rest of the world. After the initial spark of fear had disappeared in response to Huang's Crispr-edited embryos, scientists in the United States and Europe conducted similar studies.
Jennifer Doudna, University of California Biochemist Berkeley, was the discoverer of Crispr, saying that the current Kerfuffle could be played in a similar fashion. "In two years, let's say, if these girls are healthy … People will look back and say," Maybe the process was not correct, but the result could be good.
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