Chinese court sentences 'gene-editing' scientist to three years in prison

Dr. He used the CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing technique in the twin girls to disable a gene called CCR5, which encodes a protein that allows HIV to enter and infect cells

December 30, 2019 11:11 am | Updated 11:23 am IST - BEIJING

In this Oct. 10, 2018, photo, scientist He Jiankui speaks during an interview in Shenzhen in southern China's Guandong province. China's government on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, ordered a halt to work by a medical team that claimed to have helped make the world's first gene-edited babies.

In this Oct. 10, 2018, photo, scientist He Jiankui speaks during an interview in Shenzhen in southern China's Guandong province. China's government on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, ordered a halt to work by a medical team that claimed to have helped make the world's first gene-edited babies.

A Chinese court sentenced the scientist who created the world's first “gene-edited” babies to three years in prison on December 30, according to the official Xinhua media.

He Jiankui, said in November 2018, that he had used gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to change the genes of twin girls, causing a backlash in China and globally about the ethics of his research and work.

The editing process , which he calls gene surgery, “worked safely as intended” and the girls are “as healthy as any other babies”, he said in one video. It was impossible to verify the claims as Mr. He did not provide any written documentation of his research

Also read: ‘China halts work on gene-editing babies’

Chinese authorities launched an investigation into Mr. He’s work and said they had halted the kind of research he was undertaking. Under the draft laws sent to China’s legislature for review, medical and human trials would face closer scrutiny and stricter requirements, such as ensuring human subjects are properly briefed, State media outlet Xinhua reported. The rules would also require all future trials to be approved by administrative authorities as well as ethical committees, it said. The report did not specify a timeline for the approval of the regulations, or make specific mention of Mr. He’s research.

Also read: Why is China laying down gene editing rules?

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