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China wants to introduce gene-editing regulation after CRISPR-Baby-Furore



  He Jiankui speaks during an interview in a lab in Shenzhen.

He Jiankui's controversial experiments on gene processing of embryos have led to stricter regulations in China. [19659004] Credit: Mark Schiefelbein / AP / Shutterstock

China is about to introduce a new gene editing regulation in humans. A draft of the country's new Civil Code lists human genes and embryos in a section on personal rights to be protected. Accordingly, experiments with genes in adults or embryos that endanger human health or violate ethical standards can be considered a violation of a person's fundamental rights.

Legislation says that anyone who manipulates genes in humans is responsible for what happens to a person. "The law makes it clear that those who research human genes and embryos can not endanger human health or violate ethics," said Zhang Peng, a criminal lawyer at Beijing Wuzi University.

China has revised its Civil Code ̵

1; the overall legal framework for non-criminal disputes in areas such as marriage, inheritance and personal rights – since 2002. The last draft was submitted and will be submitted last month to the country's supreme legislative body, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress However, the inclusion of geneditization in the latest draft of the new Civil Code was at the last minute, triggered by a riot over genetic editing experiments conducted by Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui last November. He claimed to have performed experiments on human embryos that gave birth to twin girls whose DNA had been altered to be less susceptible to HIV infection. The controversial experiments were condemned in China and internationally, causing him to be released in January from the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen. He was also censored by the Chinese authorities, but it was not clear if he violated any of the country's laws.

The revised Civil Code adds experiments with human genes or embryos under the section of the law that guarantees the right of a person to exercise physical well-being, freedom, privacy and dignity. According to Zhang, this is the first time genome-related regulations have been incorporated into the Civil Code.

If the new Codex came into force as he thought about his experiments, it might have stopped him, Zhang says. Although his work has resulted in the twin girls being less ill with HIV, it is possible that he accidentally increased their susceptibility to other infectious diseases. However, there is also the danger that his experiments will cause unintentional changes in their genome, as is often the case in gene editing experiments in the laboratory where the twins are susceptible to genetic disease. Under these terms, such gene editing experiments would be illegal, Zhang says.

In March, the Department of Health also drew up regulations requiring scientists to seek approval prior to processing human embryos and imposed penalties for those who violated the rules.

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