In 2018 a Stanford-trained scientist shocked the world by revealing the creation of the first genetically modified babies using the CRISPR / Cas9 tool. He Jiankui and two colleagues have now been sentenced after a secret trial in China. Scientists have been accused of "illegal medical practice" for modifying the genes of human embryos for reproductive purposes.
The scientist who made the modification has been fired and may be sued for misuse of the technique.
Jiankui, who can be seen in the photo below, was sentenced to three years in prison, will have to pay a fine of 3 million yuan ($ 429,000) and will never be able to practice reproductive medicine. His two colleagues, Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, were sentenced to two years and 18 months in prison respectively. They will also pay fines and will no longer be able to practice medicine.
The scientific paper released by Jiankui's team was created by a total of ten authors, but it is unclear whether the others will also be penalized. Much of the information about the experiment can now only be obtained from Chinese authorities.
According to the trial, Jiankui and his colleagues conspired in 2016 to modify the CCR5 gene and thus make humans more resistant to the HIV virus. The team helped reproduce "multiple couples of people infected with HIV." After editing the embryo genes, they were implanted in two women who eventually gave birth to three genetically modified babies. The trial marked the first time Chinese authorities had recognized the presence of a third genetically modified baby.
The court noted that the gene editing technique had not been "verified for safety and efficacy", and that He Jiankui and the others falsified documents to persuade patients and doctors to help. The team reportedly told patients that they were part of an AIDS vaccine trial, not genetic modification.
Shortly after Jiankui revealed the CRISPR tests, experts condemned the practice as "inconceivable", "immoral" and "unethical." Soon after, the Chinese authorities began an investigation and eventually detained Jiankui.
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