Jiankui made the bold and expansive claim that his research could one day be used to "control the HIV epidemic".
However, at the time, it was not clear whether the experiment had even been successful at immunizing the girls against HIV because the researchers had not reproduced the precise gene mutation that is known to confer protection. Chief among the complaints is that He's experiment didn't achieve its main goal: producing a mutation in the CCR5 gene that would create resistance to HIV. It is this gene that Jiankui claimed to have targeted using the powerful editing tool CRISPR. However, the team did not actually reproduce this exact mutation.
Several scientists have claimed that He's research and claims on the variant gene of CCR5 is inaccurate and a blatant misinterpretation of the actual data.
He's claim that "embryo editing will help millions" is also "equal parts delusional and outrageous", Urnov added, comparing it to the idea that the 1969 moonwalk brought "hope" to those looking to live on the moon.
While He's team targeted the right gene, scientists say that He was not able to replicate the required variation of "Delta 35".The scientific community says that the researchers in the project made "off-target" edits.
Furthermore, despite CRISPR having revolutionized the genomics field since its introduction in 2012, it remains an imperfect tool since it can introduce what is known as "off-target" edits.
Dr He's study acknowledged that one among the embryos he edited potentially had one unplanned - though largely biologically insignificant - mutation, and that the opposite embryo "did no longer demonstrate any off-aim mutations".
Researchers were also concerned that the parents of the babies were pressured into consenting to the experiment.
The daddy was HIV optimistic, which carries a major social stigma in China and makes it virtually unimaginable to have entry to fertility therapy, although a well-established method generally known as "sperm washing" prevents the an infection being handed to unborn youngsters.
Their lack of access to any kind of fertility treatment may have motivated them to take part in the experiment despite the huge risks to their children, Jeanne O'Brien, a reproductive endocrinologist at Shady Grove Fertility told the MIT Technology Review. "Was this couple free from undue coercion?"
The authors additionally appeared to have taken steps to make it exhausting to seek out the household, like leaving the names of the fertility docs off the paper, and together with a false date of start.
Scientists are now saying that Jiankui's experiment may have failed.
To date, no journal has agreed to publish the research, despite He submitting it to a number of publications since a year ago, including Nature and the JAMA.