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Friday, July 3rd

A scientific ethical divide between China and west “Scientists around the world were shocked in April when a team led by Huang Junjiu, 34, at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, published the results of an experiment in editing the genes of human embryos. The technology, called Crispr-Cas9, may one day be used to eradicate inheritable illnesses. But in theory, it also could be used to change such traits as eye color or intelligence, and to ensure that the changes are passed on to future generations. Dr. Huang and his colleagues tried to modify a gene that causes a blood disorder called beta-thalassemia. The experiment failed in 85 embryos. Even so, to many in global science, it was a line that should not have been crossed. Scientists in the West generally abjure this sort of research on the grounds that it amounts to genetic engineering of humans. In any event, the technology is still in the earliest stages of development. ‘The consensus among the scientific community is, ‘not for now,’’ said Huso Yi, the director of research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Center for Bioethics. Yet Chinese scientists seem in no mood to wait. ‘I don’t think China wants to take a moratorium,’ Mr. Yi said. ‘People are saying they can’t stop the train of mainland Chinese genetics because it’s going too fast.’”

The New York Times
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