The genetic-editing baby work of He Jiankui has been halted by the Chinese government, citing a violation of Chinese laws and regulations.
Speaking to CCTV reporters on Thursday, Xu Nanping – the deputy minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology – revealed the Ministry deeply opposes Jiankui’s work surrounding genetically editing babies. Moreover, Nanping confirmed the Ministry took necessary actions to suspend all technological and scientific activities surrounding the research.
“The clinical operation of genetic editing for human embryos is strictly prohibited in our country,” the deputy minister explained to the reporters.
“The genetically edited baby incident reported by the media has blatantly violated China’s relevant laws and regulations, and has also broken openly the bottom line of morality and ethics that the academic community has adhered to. It is shocking and unacceptable.
“The next step of the Ministry of Science and Technology will, on the basis of comprehensive and objective investigations, be investigated and dealt with in accordance with the law.”
As the Inquisitr reported earlier this week, He shook the scientific community all across the planet after claiming to genetically alter the embryos of two twin girls named Lulu and Nana. Jiankui insisted the Harmonicare Shenzhen women and children’s hospital’s ethics committee approved the project before he started working on it. The hospital, however, has also denied having any knowledge about the work He was doing. In total, Jiankui claimed to have altered the genes of embryos for seven different couples.
Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen – where Jiankui is currently an associate profession – also claimed to have no knowledge of his gene-edited baby research, the Guardian reports.
The Latest: China's government orders a halt to work by a medical team that claimed to have helped make the world's first gene-edited babies. https://t.co/xPmAEtqGRg
— The Associated Press (@AP) November 29, 2018
He clarified the genetic modification of the embryos was not to give the couples the power of selecting an eye color or a hair color. The focus of the altercation was to create babies that were more resistant to HIV infection.
According to the Guardian, a bioethicist at Stanford University named William Hurlbut did not share the rest of the scientific community’s shock when the news broke. Hurlbut admitted he knew it was He’s long-term goal, he just hoped he wouldn’t move forward as quickly as he did.
“I worried his enthusiasm for what he was doing was so high that he might proceed faster than he should. Now the door is open to this and will never close again. It’s like a hinge of history,” the bioethicist explained.
The genetic modification of babies is illegal in many other countries, including the U.S. and the U.K. It is considered by many to be both unethical and unsafe. This belief is because the modifications do not only affect the child but any future generations that follow the genetically-modified child.
Chinese national health commission officials have promised to “investigate and deal with any unlawful behavior” surrounding Jiankui’s work. Moreover, scientists have come forward to request Chinese regulations are put into place to prevent this type of research from happening in the future.
The Chinese government ordered a temporary halt to research activities for people involved in the editing of human genes, after a Chinese scientist said he had edited the genes of twin babies. https://t.co/rbMBPeR1q4
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 30, 2018
According to the Associated Press, while some see the potential value in the science surrounding He’s research – especially on individuals who have already been born – there is not enough information available regarding the safety and risks associated with genetically modifying eggs and embryos.
Some agreed this type of science could become helpful for reproductive purposes sometime in the future “but only when there is compelling medical need” for it.