Image by Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP

Chinese geneticist He Jiankui rocked the scientific world with his gene-edited baby experiments back in 2018, a highly controversial use of the technology that ended up sending him to a three-year stint in prison for illegal medical practices.

Now, just under a year after being released, He has some regrets about rushing into the experiments.

"I did it too quickly," He told the South China Morning Post in a new interview.

His attempts to use the gene-editing technique CRISPR on three separate babies were designed to modify a gene called CCR5, which is known to offer resistance to the HIV virus.

But not everybody was convinced by the controversial experiments or their outcomes. His unpublished studies have been questioned by scientists, some of whom have since refuted He's claims of having edited the gene "successfully" in the twin girls. And regardless of the outcome, experts decried the experiments as unethical.

Years — and a prison sentence — later, He is ready to speak out about the current state of the girls.

"They have a normal, peaceful and undisturbed life," he told the SCMP. "This is their wish and we should respect them," he said, adding that "the happiness of the children and their families should come first."

As for their future — after all, the consequences of gene-editing humans are still almost entirely a mystery — He remained vague.

"You will have high expectations of them, but you also have huge unease," he told the newspaper, explaining that they will be given the option of having additional "medical follow-ups for their individual needs" once they turn 18.

"We committed to doing this for their lifetimes," he added.

As for what his next plans are or if he would try it all again using a different approach, He remained vague, telling the SCMP that he does "not yet have an answer."

Next month, He will visit the University of Oxford and do a series of interviews on reproductive health.

"I have a long-term vision, which is that each of us should be free from inherited diseases," he told the newspaper.

READ MORE: ‘Respect them,’ says He Jiankui, creator of world’s first gene-edited humans [South China Morning Post]

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