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Human embryo on blue background

A Chinese scientist's claim that he edited DNA in embryos that developed into twin baby girls has set off a scientific and ethics firestorm that has drawn in a UC Berkeley developer of the gene-editing technology and a Berkeley genetics watchdog who has long warned of science creating "designer babies."

Both Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, and Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society condemned the work of He Jiankui, whose lab at Southern University of Science and Technology in China said it disabled a gene in the twin girls that should prevent them from infections of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

He's experiment, using CRISP-Cas9 technology invented by Doudna and others, has not been verified or published in independent, peer-reviewed scientific journals, the norm for discoveries. His claim comes as scientists gather in Hong Kong for the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing.

He's work ignites the latest round of debate among scientists and watchdog groups that have long worried that technologies developed over the past decade, including...