China’s Frankenstein jailed for three years in gene-editing modified baby case

He Jiankui is a Chinese scientist who created the world’s first ‘gene-edited’ babies has been arrested and sentenced to three years in jail and fined with 3 million yuan($430,000 USD).

He along with his colleagues, Zhang Yinli and Qin Jinzhou was convicted by a Shenzhen court on Monday on charges that claimed that said that he carried illegal human embryo gene-editing for further for reproduction which led to the birth of three such genetically edited babies, as reported by state news agency Xinhua.

He announced the birth of these babies in November in the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hongkong. After which He was not seen in public and the authorities announced an investigation for the same.

Investigators told Xinhua that in the preliminary investigation they found out that He created a team that included foreign staff which easily avoided surveillance. He used the technology of uncertain safety level to perform human embryo gene editing for the purpose of reproduction which on the other hand is officially banned in China. Even the ethics review committee of Hatmonicare Women and Children’s Hospital that was said to have approved the research was not registered with city health authorities and denied involvement.

From March 2017 to November 2018 He forged several review papers and was able to recruit eight couples to take part in this experiment that resulted in two pregnancies. He also claimed the gene-editing technique known as CRISPR was used to try to create embryos that were immune to HIV infection.

One of the mothers who was a participant gave birth to twins while the other woman is still carrying the gene-edited foetus. The Guangdong government has planned to keep the twins under medical observation. The government decision was backed by several scholars in the scientific community. He’s work has been backlashed and questioned by several scientists working under gene-editing. China’s Ministry of Science and Technology has ordered all research institutions to suspend He’s other scientific projects as well.

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