The experiment of He Jiankui

Chinese scientist He Jiankui caused outrage in the scientific community and the general public when he announced in November 2018 the birth of two babies that he had genetically modified. He Jiankui claimed to have used CRISPR/Cas9 to modify the embryos' CCR5 gene to make them immune to the HI virus transmitted by the father. Jiankui allegedly implanted the two edited embryos into a woman who then gave birth to two living girls. He Jiankui's actions were roundly condemned for several reasons. On the one hand, it cannot be ruled out that the modification of the CCR5 gene could have other, more serious effects, since not all functions of this gene are fully known at present. On the other hand, the necessity of this intervention is highly controversial, as safe methods already exist to prevent the transmission of the HI virus from father to child. With his experiment, Jiankui also knowingly circumvented a number of ethical and scientific guidelines. He was suspended from the Southern University of Science in Shenzhen, where he worked. As the genetic editing of human embryos for the purpose of reproduction is also prohibited by law in China, Jiankui was prosecuted and convicted.  

Further background on the experiment and subsequent studies, including the range of respective editing of cells in children, can be found, for example, here:

Albrecht, S. / König, H. / Sauter, A. (2021): Genome Editing am Menschen. Endbericht zum Monitoring. TAB-Arbeitsbericht Nr. 191. Berlin: Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung beim Deutschen Bundestag (TAB): 71ff., 91ff. Online Version(German)

Fehse, B. / Reich, J. / Marx-Stölting, L. / Pichl, A. / Schickl, H. (2021): 9. Genome-Editing und Einzelzellanalyse: Neue Methoden und ihre Implikationen für Forschung, Anwendung und Gesellschaft. In: F. H. Fehse,B. / Bartfeld, S. / Clemens, S. / Erb, T. J. / Fangerau, H. / Hampel, J. /Korte, M. / Marx-Stölting, L. / Mundlos, S. / Osterheider, A. / Pichl, A. / Reich, J. / Schickl, H. /Schicktanz, S. / Taupitz, J. / Walter, J. / Winkler, E. C. / Zenke, M. (ed.), Fünfter Gentechnologiebericht. Sachstand und Perspektiven für Forschung und Anwendung. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 219-250.

Li, J. R. / Walker, S. / Nie, J. B. / Zhang, X. Q. (2019): Experiments that led to the first gene-edited babies: the ethical failings and the urgent need for better governance. In: Journal of Zhejiang University-SCIENCE B 20 (1), 32-38. DOI: 10.1631/jzus.B1800624. Online Version

Wird geladen