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MOSCOW — Russian health officials are playing down international concerns that a Moscow researcher plans to create gene-edited babies any time soon, saying for the first time that the experiment would be “premature.”

Denis Rebrikov, the scientist who has said he wants to use the genome-editing technology CRISPR to alter embryos, has sparked widespread alarm among scientists who fear that he could become the second researcher to conduct such work, following the birth of gene-edited twins in China last year.

But in a statement issued last week to Russian wire services, the health ministry here said it fully supports the World Health Organization position against making changes to the human germline — the genome of eggs, sperm, and embryos — that would be inherited by future generations “until its implications have been properly considered.” The ministry said it views any clinical use of genome-editing technologies on human embryos “premature.”

The ministry’s stance puts at least a temporary hurdle in front of Rebrikov, who would need the agency’s approval to proceed with his experiment to repair a mutated gene that causes... see more