Chinese doctor who created 'CRISPR babies' is missing

He Jiankui
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A Chinese doctor who claimed to have created babies using CRISPR gene editing has gone missing. Local media reports revealed that the whereabouts of the doctor named He Jiankui of Shenzhen, China is currently unknown and several sources suggest that he may be under house arrest.

Previously, several reports had claimed that Jiankui was suspended by the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China. However, the university had clarified that the doctor has been on leave since February 2018.

As the news about the doctor's missing surfaced online, the university has dismissed these rumours and made it clear that Jiankui is not detained.

"Right now nobody's information is accurate, only the official channels are. We cannot answer any questions regarding the matter right now," said a university spokeswoman, the South China Morning Post reports.

The last time Jiankui appeared in front of the public was on last Wednesday when he attended the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong to clarify his CRISPR gene editing claims.

Jiankui had received negative criticisms from all corners after he announced to have successfully edited the genome of human embryos using CRISPR-Cas9 and then those embryos were used to deliver twin girls. Criticizers argue that the experiment conducted by He Jiankui was without any oversight, and it is against nature's laws.

Scientists also argued that the CRISPR gene editing carried out on human embryos was totally unnecessary, and they made it clear that the long-term implications which the babies may face due to the gene editing are still unclear.

Soon after his revelation, the Southern University of Science and Technology blamed He Jiankui for violating academic ethics and academic norms. The Chinese science union also condemned the research and called it a move that violates scientific spirits and ethics.

This article was first published on December 6, 2018