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Egg surrounded by sperm

A worldwide debate is under way on how to regulate gene editing in human sperm, eggs or embryos.

A researcher steps forward and says he has plans to edit the genes of babies. He wants to alter a gene called CCR5 to protect children from HIV. He seems to have the skills, tools and position to do so — and he starts to tell other scientists about his plans.

When Chinese scientist He Jiankui did this, the story went famously wrong. Jiankui pushed ahead with his work quietly, and last November announced the birth of the world’s first gene-edited babies. He was quickly and universally condemned for acting recklessly and ignoring risks. Meanwhile, scientists whom He had told about the work beforehand were criticized for not raising the alarm.

Now this scenario is playing out again. Nature this week reports that molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov at the Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University in Moscow says that he plans to create babies with an edit of the same gene. The proposals are controversial, and already scientists are raising doubts... see more