A project claiming to have produced the world's first gene-edited babies has been stopped by the Chinese government, which is declaring the work of scientist He Jiankui as being both unlawful and unethical, according to the Associated Press.
Gene editing for reproductive purposes might be considered in the future "but only when there is compelling medical need", with clear understanding of risks and benefits, and certain other conditions, said Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, one of the conference sponsors.
The National Health Commission has ordered an investigation into He's claims, as has the Southern University of Science of Technology, where the scientist worked. "We don't know. He said he confirmed that essentially they'd done the hormone test for whether or not the woman was pregnant".
Chinese scientist He Jiankui speaks at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong this week.
Robin Lovell-Badge, a professor of genetics and embryology at the Francis Crick Institute in London who moderated the session, asked a question that he said was on many attendees' minds.
He's announcement, on the eve of an global symposium about gene-editing, held in Hong Kong, generated strong reaction from scientists and ethicists around the world, many of whom warned that the safety of CRISPR.
He admitted at a gene-editing conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday he had already initiated another pregnancy, although it was too soon to tell if it would go to full term. Eventually, he moved to a human clinical trial, recruiting eight couples with an HIV-positive father and non-infected mother.
China has always been considered on the forefront of gene-editing technology, bankrolling expensive research projects and boasting less regulation in the field than Western nations.
"By doing this, He is changing the human gene pool, we may not be able to see the impact of this until several generations later", said Dennis Lo Yuk-ming, chairman of Chinese University's Department of Chemical Pathology.
He said gene editing would help protect the girls from HIV, the virus that causes Aids.
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'I think the failure was his, not the scientific community, ' Dr Charo said.
Prof He also said that the study had been submitted to a scientific journal for review, though he did not name the journal. He criticized Jiankui's lack of transparency and referred to an agreement made at the 2015 conference that said it would be irresponsible to use genetic editing until safety issues had been dealt with.
The consent form mentions multiple risks, but there is little detail on potential complications of the gene-editing process itself, including for the child.
Though the reports are unconfirmed, the announcement has been controversial among laypeople and scientists alike.
Many countries, including the United Kingdom, have laws that prevent the use of genome editing in embryos for assisted reproduction in humans.
Southern University of Science and Technology, where He is on leave from his position as an associate professor, has announced an investigation.
Then came a surprising, second twist: He says his trial has resulted in "another potential pregnancy" of a genetically-edited human, though that pregnancy is in very early stages.
The National Health Commission is now investigating the claims made by He.
The scientist says he felt a strong responsibility that it was not just to make a first but make it an example, and society will decide what to do next in terms of allowing or forbidding such science.