On Monday, the Chinese government finally confirmed to the world that disgraced scientist He Jiankui had been telling the truth: in an attempt to genetically alter people to be immune to HIV, He had allowed twin girls to be born with CRISPR-edited genomes.
Now William Hurlbut, a Stanford bioethicist who says he was in regular contact with He, told the French wire service AFP that a second woman carrying a gene-edited fetus is between 12 and 14 weeks into a pregnancy as well — meaning the next gene-edited baby is due in about six months.
Under the Radar
He announced his controversial work to the world at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in late November. Until yesterday’s confirmation, however, the world had little to go on beyond the word of He and those close to him.
Based on his alleged conversations with He, Hurlbut says that at the time of the conference, the second embryo would have been too young to be seen on an ultrasound.
“So it could be no more than four to six weeks old (at the time), so now it could be about 12 to 14 weeks,” Hurlbut told AFP.
Hurlbut said that he planned on visiting He at his lab shortly after the summit, but once He broke the news he was placed under constant guard in an apartment on campus at He’s now-former university.
Since then, Hurlbut said that he and He have chatted on the phone or over emails on a regular basis, but it’s been about a week since they’ve been in touch. What remains unclear is how the Chinese government will respond to the confirmation of a second gene-edited pregnancy.
READ MORE: China’s second gene-edited foetus is 12-14 weeks old: scientist [France 24]
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