Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Russian Scientists Call on Health Minister to Ban Genome Editing Experiments

Russian Scientists Call on Health Minister to Ban Genome Editing Experiments

Thursday, 19 September, 2019 - 05:15
Chinese scientist He Jiankui speaks at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong on November 28, 2018. (Getty Images)

The professional community of Russian geneticists is working on a correspondence to the Russian Health Minister with a request for freezing genome editing-related experiments.

The call comes following a statement by Russian biologist Denis Rebrikov that he would be prepared to conduct genome editing experiments on embryos and to copy the experiments carried out by Chinese scientist He Jiankui in 2018.

The Chinese scientist, who studied in the US and returned to work in China, claimed to have repeatedly edited the human genome in the embryo stage, and that his experiments resulted in the birth of at least two genetically modified twin girls.

Jiankui said his experiment aimed at making the babies HIV resistant.

His works stirred widespread condemnation, both in China and abroad.

Scientists who have seen some practical material about the process said his genetic editing did not necessarily guarantee a resistance to HIV. Others have warned of consequences on human health.

Rebrikov said that he is ready to repeat the experiment in Russia and even found volunteers who agreed to participate.

Russian scientists warned of the dangers of experimenting on humans, saying they are banned by the Science Council of the Genetic Medical Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

At the same time they said genome editing is a very promising technology, which might be used for treating hereditary and oncological diseases.

Many laboratories around the world have been working on this technology for some time. They warned, though, that attempts to edit embryo genomes may lead to dire consequences.

Editor Picks