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Guangdong releases preliminary investigation result of gene-edited babies

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-01-21 23:38
He Jiankui is reflected in a glass panel as he works at a computer at a laboratory in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong province, Oct 10, 2018. [Photo/IC]

GUANGZHOU, Jan. 21 -- A preliminary investigation into the claimed "genetically edited babies" shows that Chinese researcher He Jiankui had defied government bans and conducted the research in the pursuit of personal fame and gain.

The investigation team of Guangdong Province announced on Monday that He had intentionally dodged supervision, raised funds and organized researchers on his own to carry out the human embryo gene-editing intended for reproduction, which is explicitly banned by relevant regulations.

He Jiankui, associate professor with Shenzhen-based Southern University of Science and Technology, claimed in November 2018 that the world's first genetically edited babies were born, and their DNA was altered to prevent them from contracting HIV.

According to the investigation, in June 2016, He started the project and organized a team that included some overseas members. He conducted the gene-editing activities using technologies without safety and effectiveness guarantee.

With a fake ethical review certificate, He recruited eight volunteer couples (the males tested positive for the HIV antibody, females tested negative for the HIV antibody) and carried out experiments from March 2017 to November 2018.

As HIV carriers are not allowed to have assisted reproduction, He asked others to replace the volunteers to take blood tests and asked researchers to edit genes on human embryos and implant them into the females' body.

Two volunteers were pregnant. One gave birth to twin girls Lulu and Nana. The other is still pregnant. One couple quit the experiment halfway through, and the other five couples did not conceive.

The activities seriously violated ethical principles and scientific integrity and breached relevant regulations of China, according to the investigation.

Officials in charge of the investigation said, He, as well as other relevant personnel and organizations, will receive punishment according to laws and regulations. Those who are suspected of committing crimes will be transferred to the public security department.

The babies and the pregnant volunteer will receive medical observation and follow-up visits.

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