Scientist Who Gene-Hacked Babies Boosted Their Brainpower

When infamous Chinese scientist He Jiankui edited the genes of human twin babies last year, he was reportedly trying to make them immune to HIV. But researchers familiar with the genetic changes he made are now saying that the specific manipulation he performed may have broader consequences.

The CCR5 gene is linked to HIV susceptibility, but research published Thursday in the journal Cellshows that it also enhances cognition in mouse studies. The gene can also facilitate a human’s recovery after a stroke and may correlate with academic success, according to MIT Technology Review — meaning that the first two enhanced humans with genetically boosted cognition and memory may already be born.

There’s no direct evidence that He intended to do anything to twin babies Lulu and Nana’s brain — though given his lofty goals for a future without HIV, it seems plausible that he would have also celebrated figuring out how to boost human intelligence. All the same, evidence gathered by MIT Tech Review suggests that He likely knew about the role CCR5 plays in the brain.

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