Chinese authorities have recently confirmed the news that a second woman is pregnant with a baby whose genes have been edited by He Jiankui, a scientist. He Jiankui already made the headlines when he announced in November 2018 that he carried out a clinical trial where he edited the genes of embryos.
The initial investigations that the Chinese authorities carried out revealed that He Jiankui fabricated ethical approvals for gaining the trust of eight couples. The eight couples were made HIV-positive fathers and HIV-negative mothers.
Two out of the eight couples became pregnant. One of the couples has already birthed twins with the third child on its way. One couple pulled out of the study, while the remaining five couples have not succeeded in becoming pregnant. He Jiankui said that he only edited the gene using the CRISPR technology to make sure that the children would be immune to the HIV virus.
According to an investigator, the expectant mother and the twins from the first pregnancy are to be placed under medical observation. The scientist has not given any scientific evidence for backing up his claims, and no independent verification of his claims has been carried out. Nonetheless, the information provided is enough for the scientific community to declare his actions as unethical.
China has stated that the work performed was illegal and that charges will be pressed. Dr. He Jiankui was working at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in Shenzhen when he indulged in this research. The university has already condemned his actions and stated that the doctor was unpaid leave while he conducted the trails.
Dr. He Jiunkai, however, has defended his actions at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing on 28th November 2018. The summit was held in Hong Kong. Many scientists from all over the world are calling for strict regulations pertaining to the use of CRISPR technology. It is currently illegal in many countries including China since the effects of the technology are still not clear.
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