Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

In the Three Years

He Jiankui, the Chinese researcher who created the first gene-edited babies, may soon be released from prison, according to Science.

He announced in 2018 that he used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool to modify the genomes of embryos of couples undergoing fertility treatments so that the embryos would be immune to HIV. This led to the birth of two twin girls and, later, another infant.

The announcement was met with alarm from much of the scientific community and led to widespread condemnation and concern for the babies' health. He was convicted a year later of illegal medical practice and sentenced to three years in prison, following revelations that he had forged an ethical review certificate and avoided oversight of his work.

Science notes that research into human genome editing has continued in the last three years. It adds that researchers have, for instance, been exploring how to prevent mosaicism among edited embryos or how to edit sperm or eggs even before fertilization, as well as investigating genome editing after birth.

At the same time, the University of Wisconsin, Madison's Alta Charo, a bioethicist and lawyer, tells Science that many of the reforms pushed after He's announcement to curb rogue actions — such as a global registry of preclinical heritable gene-editing work — have petered out.