Home Health He Jiankui faces law after doing gene-editing in Babies

He Jiankui faces law after doing gene-editing in Babies


News channels were full of the fact that a Chinese researcher was able to edit the genes of the babies of China and have made them resistant from the HIV. He did this by altering the genes of the embryo taken out from the womb of the mother and then using CRISPR to edit the genes which allow HIV virus to enters the cells. Although he did a great job regarding biotechnology still what he has done was abominable and he has to face law now.

He successfully used the gene editing tool CRISPR and made those babies resistant from AIDS. However when those babies will grow then the experiment will be proven as successful. Identities of the parents and the babies were kept anonymous because of the government concern.

Gene editing, He Jiankui, Chinese researcher,

“The nature of this incident is extremely nasty, and relevant bodies have been ordered to temporarily halt the scientific research activities of relevant personnel,” the state news agency Xinhua said, citing the health ministry, science and technology ministry and China Association for Science and Technology.

“Even if the modifications are verified, the procedure was irresponsible and failed to conform with international norms,” the organizing committee of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, being held in Hong Kong this week, said in a statement. Scientist He Jiankui said this week that he used a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of the twin girls born this month.

However, the motive of He Jiankui was so good and he said that the girls will be protected by the infection of HIV virus which is so dangerous and affects the immune system of humans. HIV acts as a dangerous virus and destroys the defense mechanism of the body then the body becomes unable to fight any disease, even a small cold can lead to the death of the infected person.

Genetic engineering requires permission and special grants which he did not take and no government allows the genetic engineering on humans as this could be dangerous and can prove to interfere and put the human life in danger.

Chinese government has suspended He jiankui who is the scientist behind this experiment. He is now being subjected to face punishments after revealing what he did with the twins babies. The society called him so irresponsible after conducting this experiment on babies of humans.

His work was “extremely abominable in nature”, Xi Nanping, vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, told state news agency Xinhua late on Thursday.

Xi said genetically engineering the DNA of twin girls so they would not develop HIV, breached scientific ethics, adding that gene-editing of human embryos for reproduction purposes was “explicitly banned” in China.

He admitted at a gene-editing conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday that he had already initiated another pregnancy, although it was too soon to tell if it would go to full term.

“The events in Hong Kong this week clearly demonstrate the need for us to develop more specific standards and principles that can be agreed upon by the international scientific community,” NAS president Marcia McNutt and NAM president Victor Dzau said in a statement.

David Cyranoski of the journal Nature posted on social media that He was in the southern city and ready to “cooperate fully with all inquiries” about his work.

He Jiankui returned to Shenzhen but he was not answering the calls and not responding to any of the messages.

The scientist is likely to face a barrage of questions from institutions in Shenzhen, as well as from the Ministry of Science and Technology. China’s National Health Commission said He’s activities would be investigated and any wrongdoing “resolutely dealt with”, according to Xinhua.

According to Qiu Renzong, professor emeritus of the Institute of Philosophy and director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences “It is uncertain what punishment He may face since the law in China is vague on enforcement”

Scientists are worried about the humanity concern in this matter as this is so risky as we are using the human healthy embryos. Other concerns are rising as his research has left everyone in shock after revealing what is involved in the study and what drastic changes it brought.

R Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, said if He had done the trial in the United States it “would have been in violation of public law” and involve “penalties [that] are both civil and criminal”. Approvals are needed through the Food and Drug Administration for human cells and therapy studies where cells are brought to gestation.

“Three scientists were disciplined, they were dismissed from their positions, and they could not apply for grants over a certain period of time, so [He’s case] may be similar to this,” Qiu told Al Jazeera. “I don’t think the police will be involved, but the ministries will discipline him.”

He said in a video released on Sunday – the same day the world learned of the births – that he used the CRISPR-cas9 tool for editing the embryos in order to remove the possibility that the babies would get HIV from their father, who is infected with the virus.

Anthropologist Eben Kirksey remarked that CRISPR has become a magic word related to HIV because of the promise that “you only need to take the treatment once”. But, he added, there were many other promising therapies for treating HIV, and he didn’t think many in the HIV research community were “putting a lot of hope” in genetic editing.

The scientist also gave a partial apology when he was speaking in front of the people sitting in the auditorium in the Internation Summit happened in Hong Kong. He also said that he is so proud of his work and he done a lot to make this possible and successful. He told everyone that he would surely be testing it on his own child also.

“Wouldn’t it be useful to try to define a global ethical code of conduct, at least a minimum of consent and what is research is and what is the standard?” asked Barbel Friedrich, director of the Alfried Krupp Institute for Advanced Studies in Greifswald. “What we heard this morning was a violation of law, which he admitted to, but what we need is a global rule.”

He Jiankui’s activities are being monitored as said by the Shenzhen’s Health and Family Planning Commision. Some institutes are making a distance from He as they does not want any obligations from the Government.

The website which was made by He and wrote about the genome work is not accessible now. Southern University, where he was the professor, they sealed the lab and suspended his investigations.

Nobody is ready to tell about the investigation and about He Jiankui. At the main gate there is no entry inside the premises as media is also asking to enter.

Shenzhen Harmonicare Women and Children’s Hospital, where the fertilization allegedly took place, now denies involvement in He’s work and has said it believes a signature on papers approving the experiment were falsified. Attempts to reach officials at the hospital for further explanation were not successful.

“We don’t know yet whether that was fabricated,” Qiu said of the papers. “Some scientists, out of other motivations, these young scientists, they want to make a lot of money.”