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    Apr 24, 2015

    China scientists genetically modify human embryos


    SCIENTISTS from China have genetically modified human embryos in what has been said to be a world first.

    While the results - published in the online journal Protein & Cell - were praised in China, they raised concerns in the West, said the South China Morning Post yesterday.

    The researchers, headed by gene-function researcher Huang Junjiu at Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University, modified in human embryos a gene responsible for beta thalassaemia, a blood disorder that can be fatal.

    Their findings "confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted", said the website of prestigious science journal Nature. The rumours triggered debate last month over whether the research was ethical.

    The findings were sent to Nature and another journal, Science. But due to "ethical objections", they were rejected, the Post reported.

    To address ethical worries, the Chinese researchers used what Nature described as " 'non-viable' embryos, which cannot result in a live birth".

    Concerned, Edward Lanphier, president of Sangamo Biosciences, told Nature: "We need to (temporarily stop) this research and make sure we have a broad-based discussion about which direction we are going here."

    But Chen Guoqiang, professor of biology at Tsinghua University, said: "The breakthroughs in this field of research will eventually benefit every one of us. The editing of human DNA holds the key to curing many diseases, maintaining health, retaining youth, living long."