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masked researcher handles genetic material in a pipette

Moscow biologist and DNA specialist Denis Rebrikov has spent much of the past year kicking a scientific and ethical hornet's nest with increasing urgency.

In the summer, he announced his ambitions to genetically modify human embryos for pregnancy using a technique nicknamed CRISPR. Then, this month, he said he'd begun lab edits on human eggs with the ultimate aim of clipping out a mutation that can cause deafness.

Rebrikov has assured the world that he won't go further -- for instance, implanting gene-edited eggs for possible pregnancy – unless he has permission from Russian authorities.

And the Russian Health Ministry took the extraordinary step this month of declaring that it's too soon to make gene-edited babies.

This all comes less than a year after Chinese scientist He Jiankui supercharged global debate over tinkering with the human genome by announcing the birth of twin genetically edited girls, nicknamed Lulu and Nana.

The stunning leap by He into what critics liken to eugenics drew condemnation around the world and banishment by Chinese officials.

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