China has been ordered to ‘rein in’ scientists who have edited the DNA of human embryos for the first time, a practice banned in Europe.
In a world’s first, researchers at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou confirmed they had engineered embryos to modify the gene responsible for the fatal blood disorder thalassaemia.
The team, led by Junjiu Huang attempted to head off fears of eugenics by claiming the embryos were ‘non-viable’ and could never had become babies.
But critics warned that China was becoming the ‘Wild West’ of genetic research saying it was the first step towards designer children and called for a worldwide ban on the practice.
The work was reported in the journal Protein and Cell after the prestigious science journals Nature and Science refused to publish the study on ethical grounds.