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Human Gene Editing Announcement Sparks Investigations

China has ordered an investigation into claims made by a researcher there that he used CRISPR to genetically modify two human infants, the Guardian reports.

He Jiankui made headlines this week with the announcement that he altered the CCR5 gene of embryos from couples undergoing fertility treatments. This, He told the Associated Press then, led to the recent birth of twin girls. The announcement, New Scientist added earlier this week, led largely to condemnation, with one researcher calling it "totally inappropriate." Harvard Medical School's George Church, though, told NPR he viewed it as analogous to the first IVF birth in 1978.

Still, Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzen where He is a researcher — though he has been on unpaid leave — said the work "seriously violated academic ethics and codes of conduct" and called for an investigation.

In an open letter, more than a hundred Chinese researchers also criticized the work, calling it a "huge blow to the global reputation and development" of Chinese research, Biocentury reports.

According to the Guardian, China's National Health Commission has now ordered officials yesterday to "seriously investigate and verify" He's claims. Meanwhile, it notes that Shenzen's Health and Family Planning commission says it is also looking into the ethics committee and review process behind He's work. The Guardian notes that China does not explicitly ban human embryo editing, but does have ethical guidelines that say that no human embryos used for research can be implanted.

In the US, Rice University has launched an investigation of one of its researchers, Michael Deem, who told the AP he helped He with his project, Stat News reports. It adds that Deem was He's advisor when He was in graduate school.