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China Starts Investigation After Scientists Claims To Edit Genes In Babies

The Scientist said he began his work in the second half of 2017 and enrolled eight couples.

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He Jiankui speaks during an interview at a laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong province. VOA

Chinese health and medical ethics authorities started an investigation on Monday into claims by a scientist who released videos on YouTube saying he had altered the genes of twins born earlier this month, creating the first gene edited babies.

The Southern University of Science and Technology in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, where the scientist, He Jiankui, holds an associate professorship, said it had been unaware of the research project and that He had been on leave without pay since February.

He Jiankui defended what he claimed to have achieved, saying he had performed the gene editing to help protect the babies from future infection with the AIDS virus.

c-section, postpartum depression, gene
A newborn, one of 12 babies born by C-section, cries inside an incubator at the Bunda Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 12, 2012. VOA

But his university said it was a “serious violation of academic ethics and standards” and scientists around the world condemned it as monstrous and dangerous.

The university issued a statement after He said in five videos posted on Monday that he used a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to edit the genes of twin girls.

China’s National Health Commission said it was “highly concerned” and had ordered provincial health officials “to immediately investigate and clarify the matter”.

“We have to be responsible for the people’s health and will act on this according to the law,” it said in a statement.

Shenzhen’s medical ethics committee said it was investigating the case. The Guangdong provincial health commission was also looking into it, according to Southern Metropolis Daily, a state media outlet.

China, genes
China’s Southern University of Science and Technology It said He is on unpaid leave until 2021. Pixabay

He said in one YouTube video that the editing process, which he called gene surgery, “worked safely as intended” and that the resulting twins were “as healthy as any other babies.” It was impossible to verify the claims as He did not provide any written documentation of his research.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a technology that allows scientists to essentially cut-and-paste DNA, raising hope of genetic fixes for disease. However, there are also concerns about its safety and ethics.

“If true, this experiment is monstrous,” said Julian Savulescu, a medical ethics specialist at Britain’s University of Oxford.

Kathy Niakan, an expert at the Francis Crick Institute in London, said: “If true…this would be a highly irresponsible, unethical and dangerous use of genome editing technology.”

China’s Southern University of Science and Technology It said He is on unpaid leave until 2021.

“Southern University of Science and Technology strictly requires scientific research to conform to national laws and regulations and to respect and comply with international academic ethics and standards,” it said.

Genes
He Jiankui defended what he claimed to have achieved, saying he had performed the gene editing to help protect the babies from future infection. Wikimedia Commons

Asked for his comment on the university’s statement, He said he had been on voluntary leave for several years to focus on his research, without specifying dates.

In the videos, He defended his work, saying in one: “I understand my work will be controversial, but I believe families need this technology. And I’m willing to take the criticism for them.”

Also Read: World’s First AI News Anchor Debuts From China

In an earlier email to Reuters, He said that he planned to share data about the trial at a scientific forum this week. He said he planned for it to also go “through the peer review process, and through a pre-print soon.” A pre-print is a publication of findings made before the research is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In an earlier telephone interview and emails with Reuters, He said he was aiming to bestow on the gene edited babies “lifetime protection” against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

He said he began his work in the second half of 2017 and enrolled eight couples. All of the potential fathers involved were HIV-positive. Five chose to implant embryos, including the parents of the twin girls, identified only by the pseudonyms Mark and Grace. The babies’ names are Lulu and Nana, He said in one video. (VOA)

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Real Estate Companies in India, China Adopting Artificial Intelligence

Additionally, the rising adoption of the machine and deep learning technologies by companies to automate their business model is also considered as one of the major factors contributing to this regional market’s growth, said the report

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Artificial Intelligence Bot
Artificial Intelligence Bot. Pixabay

The real estate companies in India and China are fast adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in the development of applications that comprise machine vision for easy analysis and surveying of buildings and structures.

Asia Pacific that contributes nearly 40 per cent in the global construction market, is estimated to be the fastest growing “AI-in-construction” market by 2024, Zion Market Research said on Monday.

The growth in Asia-Pacific “is owing to the extensive adoption of the AI-based platforms, such as machine learning and deep learning, code frameworks, and pre-built algorithms by the real estate companies in emerging economies, such as China and India”.

Additionally, the development of creating information modelling is software that gives information on a construction project, warranty details regarding material used, and commissioning data.

This has resulted in increased AI adoption by most of the construction start-ups globally for various applications, the findings showed.

According to the report, the global “AI-in-construction” market was valued at $312 million in 2017 and is expected to reach $3,161 million by 2024.

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“Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society.” VOA

“The construction sector is adopting AI to obtain precise data and insights to increase productivity, operational efficiency, and ensure safety at work. AI operates on algorithms related to image recognition to find out search criteria,” said the report.

In addition, the need for safety measures on construction sites is also projected to drive this market’s growth.

“Furthermore, huge investments made by construction companies from the emerging economies globally in the adoption of the advanced AI technology for construction applications is also likely to contribute toward the global growth of the AI-in-construction market,” the findings showed.

Also Read: Tech Giants to Face US House Hearings on Anti-trust, Cryptocurrency

Europe is projected to witness a remarkable rate of growth in the global “AI-in-construction” market in the upcoming years, due to the huge investments made by construction companies in AI technology for support, training, and digital platform.

Additionally, the rising adoption of the machine and deep learning technologies by companies to automate their business model is also considered as one of the major factors contributing to this regional market’s growth, said the report. (IANS)