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25 September 2020
FITTER. BETTER. HAPPIER.
Image via Shutterstock / Tag Hartman-Simkins

China Quietly Confirms Birth of Third Gene-Edited Baby

He Jiankui is headed to prison for creating three — not two — gene-edited babies.
by Kristin Houser / December 30 2019

On Monday, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported that He Jiankui, the researcher responsible for creating the world’s first gene-edited babies, had been sentenced to three years in prison on the charge of illegally practicing medicine.

Given that China condemned He’s research almost immediately after he announced the births of the twin babies, it’s not particularly surprising to hear that the researcher is being punished for his controversial experiment.

But included in Xinhua’s latest report was a bit of news we thought we might never hear: a third gene-edited baby has officially been born.

Back in November 2018, when He first announced the existence of the gene-edited twins, he also let slip that another woman was pregnant with an additional edited embryo.

In January, Stanford bioethicist William Hurlbut told news agency Agence France-Presse that he’d talked extensively to He about that third gene-edited baby. He said believed the woman was likely 12 to 14 weeks pregnant at the time, which would make her due to give birth around June or July 2019.

July came and went without any news about the third gene-edited baby, though — but now, China has quietly confirmed its birth, with Xinhua reporting that He was sentenced for his experiments “in which three genetically edited babies were born.”

The report doesn’t include any additional information on the baby. We don’t know its sex, its health status, whether the birth involved any complications —or if the baby is even still alive.

But we do know this baby was born, meaning that at some point this year, there were not two, but three genetically engineered humans walking — or, more likely, crawling — the Earth.

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