American professor investigated for involvement in genetically edited babies

Rice University bioengineering professor Dr. Michael Deem is being investigated by the university for his participation in a controversial gene-editing technology used to manipulate the DNA of twins.
2:58 | 11/27/18

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Transcript for American professor investigated for involvement in genetically edited babies
his teammates. The claim that the world's first genetically edited babies were born in China. An American professor is now being investigated for his possible role and Paula Faris here with the story. Reporter: Good morning. These researchers are walking an ethical tightrope and reaction within the scientific community has been harsh saying this seriously violates academic ethics and standards. The claim that shocked the world, a scientist in China announcing that he's created the first genetically engineered babies according to his team and fertility specialists who made the controversial announcement on YouTube. Right after we sent her husband's sperm into her eggs, we also sent a little bit of protein and instruction for a gene surgery. Reporter: They used a gene editing technology to manipulate the DNA of a set of twins in order to give them the ability to resist HIV infection. This morning ABC news learned that an American bioengineering professor was also allegedly involved with the controversial experiment. Rice university where Dr. Michael deem works saying if deem participated, it would have violated scientific conduct guidelines and is inconsistent with ethical norms. This kind of genetic editing is banned in the United States because it's believed that the DNA changes will pass along to future generations and can risk harming other genes and the long-term effects might not become apparent for years. The news in the scientific and medical community around the world was quickly condemned. More than 100 scientists signing the petition calling for greater oversight and experts warn this type of experimentation could present a dangerous precedent. One of the effects could be that wealthy parts might pick and choose the genes they want resulting in designer babies. We still have a lot of work to do to prove and establish that the procedure is actually safe. In cases where the potential risks are substantially higher than the benefits, which I think is the case here, that is not ethical. Reporter: The national academy of sciences put out a set of guidelines on genetic engineering last year saying, it should never be done for a disease that there is already a treatment for, such as HIV, but only should be done in life-or-death situations. Now, we should mention these claims have not been independently corroborated. They have not been published in a journal where other scientists can review which adds to the scrutiny. The researchers seemingly just dropped this news yesterday at a gene editing conference in Hong Kong and are expected to present findings tomorrow. The world will be watching but definitely a slippery slope. Thank you, Paula.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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