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Yep, Couple of Concerns There

He Jiankui's claim to have created the first gene-edited infants has raised ethical issues for scientific journals, Wired reports.

He announced last month that he used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool to alter the CCR5 genes in the genomes of a handful of embryos, which led to the birth of twin girls. This announcement led to widespread condemnation by the scientific community, with one ethicist calling the work "stupendously unethical" and Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzen where He had been a researcher said the work "seriously violated academic ethics and codes of conduct." 

In addition to concerns about editing the human germline, the community has also faulted how He described the study to parents — he called it an AIDS vaccine development program, according to the AP — as well as questioned his ethics committee approval process and the study's late arrival on China's clinical trial registry, Wired notes.

He said that he had submitted his work to a journal for publication, which would allow outside researchers to evaluate the data, but would also ensnare journals in the ethical quagmire.

Jeremy Berg, the editor of Science, tells Stat News that though he can't say whether He's paper had been submitted to his journal, "given the numerous ethical issues with this situation as presented, we would be extremely unlikely to consider it."

One option that's been presented, Stat News notes, is for He to post his paper online as a preprint, that way no journal has given the work its approval, but the data is still available for scrutiny. But Wired adds that even that option has given repositories like BioRxiv pause, as it doesn't want to be seen as endorsing unethical work.

"You want to condemn this guy. I think he should put something online [but] I think journal editors should make it clear that if you don't follow appropriate regulatory requirements, then you don't get published," New York University's Arthur Caplan tells GenomeWeb.