Why Are Scientists So Upset About the First Crispr Babies?

A Chinese scientist recently claimed he had produced the world’s first gene-edited babies, setting off a global firestorm. If true — the scientist has not yet published data that would confirm it — his actions would be a sensational breach of international scientific conventions.

The scientist, He Jiankui, said he used Crispr, a gene-editing technique, to alter a gene in human embryos — and then implanted the embryos in the womb of a woman, who gave birth to twin girls in November.

That is illegal in many countries, including the United States. China has halted Dr. He’s research and is investigating whether he broke any laws there. Among the concerns are whether the couples involved in Dr. He’s research were adequately informed about the embryo editing and the potential risks involved.

Dr. He says he has submitted his research to a scientific journal. But nothing has been published yet, and he announced the births of the twins before his research could be peer-reviewed by fellow scientists. He also appears to have taken other secretive steps that defy scientific standards.

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