Chinese scientist outrages researchers by claiming he gene-edited twins

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By Maggie Fox

The scientific world erupted with outrage and concern Monday after a Chinese scientist claimed he used gene-editing to alter the DNA of a pair of twins who were born recently.

The scientist, He Jiankui of Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, said he used a DNA-editing tool called CRISPR to alter the genes of the twin girls to make them resistant to infection by the AIDS virus HIV. He plans to present more details later this week at a scientific meeting in Hong Kong.

Fertility researchers around the world were quick to denounce both the way He announced his work — with a YouTube video and in an interview with the Associated Press — and the work itself.

Scientists usually present their work in journals, which vet their data and methods and usually also invite other experts in the field to check for errors before it’s published.

The idea of permanently altering a baby’s DNA so that their own children also carry the change is controversial, if not abhorrent, to much of the world. But some experts also say the furor surrounding the case shows it may be time to legalize such work and create a regulatory framework to ensure it is done safely and ethically.