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When He Jiankui unveiled data last week on the two baby girls born from embryos whose genes he had edited with CRISPR-Cas9 — the world’s first “CRISPR babies” — his 59 slides flew by in a 20-minute blur, leaving scientists in the audience of the International Summit on Human Genome Editing desperately taking iPhone pictures for later scrutiny.

Now many of them, as well as researchers who watched the webcast of the Hong Kong summit, have had time to analyze the data. The verdict: What He did is way worse than initially realized.


First, to recap: He, of Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, targeted a gene called CCR5. The protein the gene makes is a receptor on white blood cells. Among other functions, the receptor acts like a portal for the AIDS-causing virus: HIV attaches to the receptor in order to enter a cell.

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