Chinese authorities say world's first gene-edited babies were illegal

Article Image

Authorities in China say experiments which led to the birth of the world's first gene-edited babies broke the country's laws. CNN's Matt Rivers has more.

Posted: Jan 23, 2019 1:00 PM
Updated: Jan 23, 2019 1:00 PM

Authorities in China say experiments which led to the birth of the world's first gene-edited babies broke the country's laws, state-run Xinhua news reported Monday.

In November, Chinese scientist He Jiankui sparked international outrage when he announced that twin girls -- Lulu and Nana -- had been born with modified DNA to make them resistant to HIV. He later claimed a second woman was pregnant as a result of the research.

On Monday, Xinhua appeared to confirm the existence of the second pregnancy, but did not give any further details.

Following He's initial announcement, China's National Health Commission "immediately requested the Guangdong Provincial Health Commission to seriously investigate and verify" the claims made by the scientist.

On Monday, investigators from Guangdong Province Health Commission said that "the case has been initially identified as an explicitly state-banned human embryo-editing activity for reproductive purposes conducted by He Jiankui," Xinhua reported. The commission added that the scientist has conducted the work "In pursuit of personal fame and fortune, with self-raised funds and deliberate evasion of supervision and private recruitment of related personnel."

Procedures investigated

The authorities also believe He forged both ethical review documents and blood tests to circumvent a ban on assisted reproduction for HIV-positive patients, state media reported.

Questions emerged over the authenticity of He's ethical approval documents soon after the babies were revealed when one of the hospitals named in the paperwork denied any involvement in the procedures.

"We can ensure that the research wasn't conducted in our hospital nor were the babies born here," a Shenzhen Harmonicare Women's and Children's Hospital representative told CNN in November. The hospital confirmed that two of the doctors named in He's documents work at the hospital and suggested that an internal investigation was underway.

Editing the genes of embryos intended for pregnancy is banned in many countries, including the United States. In the UK, editing of embryos may be permitted for research purposes with strict regulatory approval. It is unknown whether the procedure is safe or, if used in pregnancy, whether it can have unintended consequences for the babies later in life or for future generations.

China has invested heavily in gene-editing technology, with the government bankrolling research into a number of world "firsts," including the first use of the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 in humans in 2016 and the first reported use of gene editing technology to modify nonviable human embryos in 2015.

'A series of poor decisions'

Following the initial results of the investigation reported by Xinhua, Yalda Jamshidi, reader in Genomic Medicine at St George's, University of London, said the Chinese investigators appeared to confirm that the birth of the gene-edited twins were the result of "a series of poor decisions."

"Unsurprisingly, the experiments have been met with heavy criticism, particularly as the procedures used have not been tested for safety in humans, and were not carried out for any real medical need," Jamshidi said in an emailed statement.

"The report will hopefully set an example with appropriate legal and punitive actions to reassure the public and scientific community that gene editing, like all potentially new medical interventions, will only be allowed where they address a true medical need, and with appropriate ethical and regulatory oversight," the statement added.

But Dr Helen O'Neill, program director of Reproductive Science and Women's Health at University College London had a more muted response to the latest outcome.

"The reports do not shed much in the way of new light on the story. There is no further clarification on what measures will be taken to prevent this happening in future, nor what will be done as punishment for He Jiankui's lack of regard for policy, the patients and the scientific community."

Authorities in China said He and any other people or institutions involved will be "dealt with seriously according to the law, and if suspected of crimes, they will be handed over to the public security bureau," according to Xinhua.

"For the born babies and pregnant volunteers, Guangdong Province will work with relevant parties to perform medical observation and follow-up visits under the guidance of relevant state departments," Xinhua said, adding that born babies and pregnant volunteers will be monitored and followed-up with under the guidance of relevant state departments.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 33068

Reported Deaths: 2068
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9524558
Lake3494175
Cass15897
Allen141966
St. Joseph122134
Hendricks114268
Hamilton113292
Elkhart110128
Johnson1092106
Madison58459
Porter50522
Bartholomew49034
Clark47941
LaPorte42022
Tippecanoe3823
Howard37824
Delaware37636
Jackson3721
Shelby36822
Hancock32727
Floyd31739
Boone30535
Morgan27724
Vanderburgh2592
Montgomery23417
White2308
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Noble20421
Grant19721
Dubois1903
Harrison18921
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16512
Warrick16528
Dearborn16521
Vigo1538
Lawrence15223
Miami1401
Putnam1357
Jennings1294
Orange12422
Scott1203
Ripley1106
Franklin1098
Kosciusko1011
Carroll933
Daviess8416
Steuben812
Marshall801
Newton7610
Wayne756
Fayette747
Wabash742
LaGrange682
Jasper661
Washington511
Jay490
Fulton471
Clay461
Rush452
Randolph453
Jefferson431
Pulaski410
Whitley383
Owen351
Sullivan341
DeKalb331
Brown331
Starke323
Perry280
Wells270
Benton260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton241
Crawford230
Blackford222
Parke190
Spencer191
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Vermillion100
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0161

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 115833

Reported Deaths: 5186
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook753063519
Lake7933281
DuPage7460350
Kane6083167
Will5356268
Winnebago209153
McHenry148870
St. Clair105077
Kankakee83644
Kendall75119
Rock Island63923
Champaign5957
Madison54557
Boone42416
DeKalb3704
Sangamon34328
Randolph2674
Jackson25610
McLean21613
Ogle2002
Stephenson1992
Macon19219
Peoria1918
Out of IL1831
Clinton18017
Union1519
Unassigned1490
LaSalle14113
Whiteside13412
Iroquois1314
Coles12313
Warren1130
Jefferson10116
Knox960
Grundy952
Monroe9311
McDonough847
Lee791
Tazewell704
Cass690
Henry670
Williamson602
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin442
Perry410
Pulaski410
Montgomery391
Vermilion381
Morgan341
Christian334
Jo Daviess320
Livingston322
Douglas260
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Menard190
Mason180
Washington180
Woodford182
Hancock160
Mercer160
Shelby161
Bureau151
Carroll142
Bond121
Franklin120
Piatt120
Schuyler120
Clark110
Crawford110
Fulton110
Brown100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
Terre Haute
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 67°
Robinson
Broken Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 65°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 64°
Rockville
Scattered Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 63°
Casey
Overcast
65° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 65°
Brazil
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 67°
Marshall
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 67°
Cold Front Approaching
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events