Reproduction and Fertility is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal
Page URL:

Second woman pregnant with genome-edited baby in China

28 January 2019
Appeared in BioNews 984

A second pregnancy established with a genome-edited embryo is ongoing, Chinese authorities have confirmed.

The announcement comes shortly after the Guangdong province health ministry issued a damning report on the research of Chinese scientist Dr He Jiankui. The ministry said that Dr He broke national regulations against using genome editing for reproductive purposes in humans.

'This behaviour seriously violates ethics and the integrity of scientific research, is in serious violation of relevant national regulations and creates a pernicious influence at home and abroad,' the report stated, according to China's official news agency, Xinhua.

Dr He, who at the time was an associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in Shenzhen, China, announced in November that he and his team had edited the genome of human embryos, in an attempt to make them resistant to HIV. The modified embryos were implanted into a woman resulting in the birth of twin girls (see BioNews 977). 

The Chinese government ordered a halt to Dr He's work shortly after. A potential second pregnancy was mentioned but unverified at the time.

The subsequent investigation found that Dr He had forged ethical review papers and deliberately evaded supervision of his work 'in pursuit of personal fame and gain', according to Xinhua. SUSTech has since announced that it has terminated Dr He's employment, saying that his work 'seriously violated academic ethics'. 

The controversial genome-editing study has been widely criticised both in China and internationally, highlighting an urgent need for international regulation on genome editing (see BioNews 978).

'[The] news is the expected consequence of any clinical research that would be led outside of the legal framework to establish ethical authorisations,' said Dr Lydia Teboul, Head of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Mary Lyon Centre, MRC Harwell. 'Going forward, it is essential that these events do not trigger a wholesale rejection of the genome editing technology as a basis of clinical tools.'

Dr Yalda Jamshidi, reader in genomic medicine at St George’s University of London, added: 'The report will hopefully set an example with appropriate legal and punitive actions to reassure the public and scientific community that genome 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.'

Chinese officials circle as a second CRISPR pregnancy is confirmed
Wired |  24 January 2019
Guangdong releases preliminary investigation result of gene-edited babies
Xinhua Net |  21 January 2019
Second woman carrying gene-edited baby, Chinese authorities confirm
The Guardian |  22 January 2019
15 April 2019 - by Jen Willows 
Genome editing was the subject up for discussion at the Progress Educational Trust's 'Germline in the Sand' event, held at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh on 19 March 2019. The discussion, which was supported by the Scottish Government sought to explore the scientific and ethical boundaries of genome editing, and what place this technology should have within our society...
11 February 2019 - by Jen Willows 
Stanford University in California is reviewing staff interactions with Dr He Jiankui, as it emerges that he was in contact with academics at multiple institutions...
14 January 2019 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Chinese scientist Dr He Jiankui, who claimed to have created the world's first genome-edited babies is said to be alive and well, and under guard at home...
3 December 2018 - by Rachel Siden 
Authorities in China are moving to suspend the research activities of the scientists who claim to have modified the genomes of twin girls with CRISPR-Cas9...
26 November 2018 - by Shaoni Bhattacharya 
The first births from genome-edited human embryos have been announced by a Chinese researcher amid widespread condemnation, and fears over safety...
26 November 2018 - by Dr Dusko Ilic 
Back in 18th century, British physician Dr Edward Jenner tested his hypothesis that harmless cowpox can prevent deadly smallpox disease on a young boy in exchange for a few coins to his poor parents. In 2018, a Chinese researcher Dr He Jiankui tested genome editing on human embryos in exchange for free IVF treatment. But that's where the parallels end...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.