Chinese scientist vanishes after claiming to have made first gene-edited babies
The controversial scientist He Jiankui is currently missing after causing major controversy in late November.
- He Jiankui caused international controversy by claiming to have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to modify the genes of two babies.
- Some reports suggested he was being held under house arrest, though others say that's inaccurate.
- It's not unusual for people to disappear in China at the hands of government authorities.
Where is He Jiankui?
The scientist who caused international uproar by claiming to have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to modify the embryos of two babies recently born in China is missing, and it's unclear why.
In a YouTube video published in late November, He stunned the world with claims, which, if true, would be both historic and highly ethically questionable. Almost immediately, geneticists and others in the scientific community decried his research as premature and unethical, criticizing his methods and noting that not enough is known about the consequences of gene editing to pursue the practice at this time.
The co-inventor of CRISPR, Dr. Jennifer Doudna, issued a statement saying He and his colleagues should "fully explain their break from the global consensus that application of CRISPR-Cas9 for human germline editing should not proceed at the present time."
China's Southern University of Science and Technology, where He worked, said it had been unaware of the controversial research, and said it would open an investigation.
The South China Morning Post wrote that He's whereabouts have not been known since last Wednesday. Other reports suggested He had been placed under house arrest by Chinese authorities. A spokeswoman with Southern University said He hadn't been placed under house arrest, but that she couldn't confirm details.
"Right now nobody's information is accurate, only the official channels are," the spokeswoman told the Morning Post, adding that she couldn't "answer any questions regarding the matter right now."
On Thursday, Huai Jinpeng, Party chief and executive vice chairman of the China Association for Science and Technology, said He's work was "extremely abominable in nature" and had "blatantly violated China's relevant laws and regulations."
Xu Nanping, a vice minister for science and technology, told state broadcaster CCTV that the work had "violated the ethical bottom line that the academic community adheres to. It is shocking and unacceptable." The China Association of Science and Technology has ordered an investigation into the matter.
Vanishing in China
Although it's still unclear why He is missing, it's worth noting that it's not uncommon for Chinese citizens, and even high-ranking officials, to go missing after slipping up in public or painting the government in a negative light.
In early November, Lu Guang, a renowned Chinese photographer who documented social injustice and environmental destruction in China, vanished while traveling to a conference in the Xinjiang province. His wife heard from a friend that Lu had been detained by officials.
More broadly, thousands of executives and officials have disappeared in recent years, likely as part of the anti-corruption campaign China began in 2012. The government says its aim is to purge from its ranks officials who abuse power or accept bribes. However, some critics say the primary goal of the program, which was expanded in March, is to allow Party leaders to get rid of opponents and keep everyone in ideological consensus.Amnesty International has called the campaign, which can result in people being forcefully detained for months without access to a lawyer, as a "systemic threat to human rights in China."
Eboo Patel explains how America's political philosophy broke the democratic mold.
- From the time of the ancient Greeks, political philosophers believed the only way to have diversity in a society was for it to be an empire or a dictatorship. They thought homogeneity was the core of democracy: one ethnic group, one racial group, and especially one religion. Then America broke that mold in 1787.
- Eboo Patel cites historical examples of how Benjamin Franklin donated funds to different religious communities and built a pulpit for the Grand Mufti of Constantinople to preach Islam, if he so wanted. George Washington assured the Jewish people protection in a very famous and beautifully written letter. Religious diversity? Turns out it's as American as apple pie.
- The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
There might be hope for our oceans, thanks to one clumsy moment in a coral tank.
- David Vaughan at the Mote Laboratory is growing coral 40 times faster than in the wild.
- It typically takes coral 25 to 75 years to reach sexual maturity. With a new coral fragmentation method, it takes just 3.
- Scientists and conservationists plan to plant 100,000 pieces of coral around the Florida Reef Tract by 2019 and millions more around the world in the years to come.
The photos were taken the same day as Russian cosmonauts investigated a mysterious hole discovered in one of the craft.
- The spacecraft belong to Russia and two private American aerospace companies.
- Six astronauts are currently aboard the International Space Station to conduct a variety of experiments.
- On Monday, Russian cosmonauts conducted a spacewalk to investigate the nature and cause of a mysterious 2-millimeter-wide hole in a Russian spacecraft.
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