China’s second gene-edited foetus is 12-14 weeks old

BEIJING (AFP) – The second woman carrying a gene-edited foetus in China is now 12-14 weeks into her pregnancy, according to a United States (US) physician in close contact with the researcher who claimed to have created the world’s first genetically-modified babies last year.

Chinese scientist He Jiankui shocked the scientific community after revealing that he had successfully altered the DNA of twin girls born in November to prevent them from contracting HIV.

State media reported on Monday that a preliminary investigation confirmed that a second woman became pregnant and that she will be put under medical observation, but no other details about her are known.

Professor He, who now faces a police investigation, had mentioned the potential second pregnancy at a human genome conference in Hong Kong in late November, but its status was unclear until now.

William Hurlbut, a physician and bioethicist at Stanford university in California who has known He for two years, told AFP it was “too early” at the time for the foetus to appear on an ultrasound.

Based on extensive conversations with He, Hurlbut said, “I get the impression the baby was fairly young when the conference happened. It could only be detected chemically, not clinically (at the time).

“So it could be no more than four to six weeks old (at the time), so now it could be about 12-14 weeks.”

Hurlbut said he had planned to visit He’s lab following the genome summit.