China’s health ministry has issued draft regulations that will restrict the use of gene editing in humans, just three months after Chinese researcher He Jiankui announced that twin girls had been born with edited genomes. The proposal includes severe penalties for those who break the rules. If approved, scientists say the policy could have gains and drawbacks for research.
The draft regulations, issued by the National Health Commission on 26 February, state that gene editing in any type of cell that will end up in humans, including embryos, will need the commission’s approval, as will other high-risk biomedical procedures.
The proposed regulations send a clear signal to academics, hospitals, research funding agencies and even investors that they should not get involved in clinical research that could be deemed unethical or illegal, says Tang Li, a science policy researcher at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. “The global scientific community’s opposition to He Jiankui’s experiment has ignited China’s awareness of research ethics.”
Tang says that the government’s tighter oversight of biomedical technologies could slow, or even halt, some research in China. But doing research responsibly is more important than making big scientific breakthroughs, she says.
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