Scientists and experts in bioethics have reacted with shock, anger and alarm at the assertion of a Chinese researcher that he helped create the world's first genetically modified babies.
He Jiankui, of the University of Science and Technology of Southern China, said he modified the DNA of the twins born earlier this month to try to help them resist a possible future infection with the AIDS virus, a dubious, ethical target. and scientifically.
There is no independent confirmation of what He says He did, and it has not been published in a journal where other experts could review it.
He revealed it on Monday in Hong Kong, where a gene-editing conference is being held, and previously in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press.
The reaction to the affirmation was fast and hard.
More than 100 scientists signed a petition calling for more oversight in gene-editing experiments.
The university in which he resides said he will hire experts to investigate, saying the work "seriously violates ethics and academic standards."
A spokesman for He said he has been absent from teaching since early this year, but remains in college and has a laboratory at the university.
The authorities in Shenzhen, the city where the laboratory is located, also started an investigation.
Gene editing is a way of rewriting DNA, the code of life, to try to supply a missing gene that is needed or to disable one that is causing problems. Only recently has it been tested in adults to treat serious diseases.
The edition of ovules, spermatozoids or embryos is different, since it makes permanent changes that can happen to future generations. Their risks are unknown, and leading scientists have called for a moratorium on their use, except in laboratory studies until more is learned.
Concerns have been expressed about how he says he proceeded, and whether the participants really understood the potential risks and benefits before enrolling to attempt a pregnancy with edited embryos.
He says he started work in 2017, but only notified him earlier this month in a Chinese registry of clinical trials.
Concern over the secret has been compounded by the lack of proof of his claims. He said the parents involved refused to be identified or interviewed, and he did not say where they live or where the work was done.
Other experts are even questioning whether the claim could be a hoax.