December 4, 2018 11:02 am
Updated: December 4, 2018 11:12 am

Chinese scientist who said he gene-edited babies is reportedly missing

ABOVE: How the gene-edited technology works

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Chinese scientist He Jiankui, who shocked the scientific community by claiming he had created the world’s first gene-edited babies, has gone missing, according to Chinese media.

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He has not been seen in public since Wednesday last week, when he attended the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong to discuss his claims, according to the South China Morning Post.

READ MORE: China orders scientists to stop work on gene-editing babies, calls it illegal

He said he used a gene editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born last month. If true, this is the first time it’s ever been done.

But his claim, which has not been verified, sparked an international outcry about the ethics and safety of such research. This form of gene editing is banned in the U.S. and Canada.

The Chinese government even ordered a temporary halt to research activities for people involved in the editing of human genes, calling the research “extremely nasty” and “abominable in nature.” China’s Health Commission said on its website on Wednesday that it had set up a team to investigate the case and that He’s research violated Chinese law.

WATCH: Chinese scientist defends work 

According to the South China Morning Post, He is under house arrest at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China — the institution that employs him and from which he has been on leave since February.

However, the university has denied this, with a spokeswoman telling the South China Morning Post: “Right now, nobody’s information is accurate, only the official channels are.”

READ MORE: Chinese scientist who claimed to have made gene-edited babies defends work against colleagues

The Post said the spokesperson declined to elaborate, saying: “We cannot answer any questions regarding the matter right now, but if we have any information, we will update it through our official channels.”

—With files from Reuters

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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