Embryo editing

NIH and experts call for global moratorium on editing human embryos

Illustration of a DNA strand with the middle link having a no-go sign
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins and top science and ethics experts in the U.S. and 6 other countries today called for an international 5-year moratorium on editing human germlines, or the type of genes that are heritable.

Why it matters: Spurred by the recent discovery of twin babies born after being edited as embryos in China, scientists and ethicists have debated what steps should happen next — and these experts say a temporary moratorium is needed until it's no longer believed that "the risk of failing to make the desired change or of introducing unintended mutations (off-target effects) is still unacceptably high."

The whereabouts of the scientist who says he created first gene-edited babies

Scientist He Jiankui
Photo: Zhang Wei/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

Chinese scientist He Jiankui, who claimed last month that he successfully created the first genetically engineered babies, is being kept under close guard while he remains under investigation by the Chinese government, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: Dr. He was spotted this week for the first time since the conference where he presented his findings at a university guesthouse in Shenzhen. The Times says he's currently under guard at the guesthouse by "a dozen unidentified men." The revelation that he used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to create genetically modified twins has sparked international outrage over the ethical questions of using the technology to engineer a human.

Go deeper: Gene editing moves into a frightening new stage