What happened to the gene edited babies in China?

Gene-Edited Babies: The Controversial Return of Scientist He Jiankui


A Bold Experiment and Its Aftermath

He Jiankui’s foray into human embryo editing was met with a maelstrom of ethical questions and widespread condemnation from the global scientific community. The audacity of manipulating the genetic fabric of human embryos—to potentially alter the course of human evolution—pushed the boundaries of biotechnology and ethics alike. In December 2019, a Chinese court found He guilty of unethical practices, sentencing him to three years in prison and imposing a hefty three-million-yuan fine. His research activities were halted, and he was dismissed from his position at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in early 2019.

Turning Over a New Leaf

Following his release in April 2022, He Jiankui has made a surprising return to the scientific arena. Now, shifting his focus from the contentious field of human embryo editing to less controversial areas, He expresses a renewed dedication to advancing gene therapy. His current ambitions are directed toward combating rare genetic diseases, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and working on the treatment of Alzheimer’s among other genetic disorders. In interviews, He has voiced pride in his past work, despite the jail time and the controversy it sparked. According to reports from the South China Morning Post, he asserts that the three children born from his gene-editing experiment are thriving.

The Way Ahead

He Jiankui’s story serves as a pivotal chapter in the ongoing narrative of genetic engineering a testament to the incredible potential and peril of wielding such power. As science advances, so too does the need for rigorous ethical oversight to ensure that the quest for knowledge benefits humanity without compromising the very essence of what it means to be human.

He Jiankui’s story emphasizes the vital significance of ethical vigilance and the collective responsibility to negotiate the tricky moral terrain of genetic innovation in an era where scientific boundaries are constantly being pushed. The lessons from this episode will surely influence the future of genetic engineering and its place in society as we stand on the cusp of a new era in medicine.


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