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he jiankui headshot

A Chinese scientist who was imprisoned for his role in creating the world’s first genetically edited babies says he has returned to his laboratory to work on the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other genetic diseases.

In an interview with a Japanese newspaper, He Jiankui said he had resumed research on human embryo genome editing, despite the controversy over the ethics of artificially rewriting genes, which some critics predicted would lead to demand for “designer babies”.

“We will use discarded human embryos and comply with both domestic and international rules,” He told the Mainichi Shimbun, adding that he had no plans to produce more genome-edited babies. Previously, He had used a tool known as Crispr-Cas9 to rewrite DNA in embryos.

In 2019 a court in China sentenced He to three years in prison for violating medical regulations after he claimed the previous year that he had created genetically modified twin sisters, Lulu and Nana, before birth.

His experiments sent shockwaves through the medical and scientific world. He was widely condemned for having gone ahead with the risky, ethically contentious and medically...