Only hours before the first public appearance of the Chinese geneticist Jiankui He at the gene-editing summit in Hong Kong, where details about the embryo experiments with the gene scissors Crispr-Cas were expected (and received) from him, the phantom from Shenzen makes itself felt on the Internet. The new issue "The Crispr-Journal" flutters into our mailbox. In the special journal, a still young online journal of an established New York specialist publisher, in which scientific advances with the gene scissors are published, the paper is announced with "Media Alert". Title: "Draft ethical principles for therapeutic assisted reproductive technologies".

Joachim Müller-Jung

Editor in the arts section, responsible for the section "Nature and Science".

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The three pages are written by five researchers: four Chinese and the American Ryan Ferrell, first author is: He Jianku, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzen, P.R. China. An ethics lesson for the establishment, from the taboo-breaker himself. No joke! You wouldn't believe it. Can it really be that Dr. He, the scientist who on Monday staged the birth of genetically modified twins as a deliberate breach of taboo according to all the rules of PR and without any regard for professional rules and for his part lacked any professional ethics? So is it possible that this same gene guerrilla is seriously presenting the global scientific community with instructions for ethical action in reproductive medicine?

He takes risks, no question, he does not shy away from border violations even in theory. We read on and begin to wonder more and more about the self-confidence of this, yes what actually - megalomaniac gene populist? In the abstract, Dr. He already puts a lot of effort into bioethics: "The public deserves a clear vision, it must be able to assess the true intentions of the industry and receive meaningful information about the state of discussion."

The article deals with the application of gene scissors in reproductive medicine, i.e. the genetic modification of embryos in the petri dish. What He apparently tried on the embryos of seven couples: replacing the unwanted gene, in this case paralyzing the receptor for the entry gate of AIDS viruses. A gene intervention in the grey area between gene therapy and wish-you-what-gene design. Up to seven million children with severe to fatal hereditary diseases could be helped, writes He, for them gene surgery with the gene scissors Crispr-Cas or the "mitochondrial donation" (another genetic application for mitochondrial diseases) is a promising new therapeutic method. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of clear, international ethical guidelines that show what clinicians can use as a guide when evaluating what can or should be done.