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First Use of Gene Editing Technique in Humans

From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 16, 2016 -- The first use of a new gene-editing technique in humans has been reported by Chinese scientists.

According to the journal Nature, Lu You of Sichuan University and colleagues injected genetically modified immune cells into a patient with aggressive lung cancer, CNNreported.

The immune cells had been extracted from the patient and altered using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique. The modified cells were then multiplied and injected into the patient's bloodstream in the hope they would target and destroy cancer cells.

A spokesperson for the team told CNN that "everything is going as planned," and that the study results would be released when they are ready.

A U.S. clinical trial using CRISPR-edited genes to treat various cancers is due to start in early 2017.

"I think this is going to trigger 'Sputnik 2.0', a biomedical duel on progress between China and the United States, which is important since competition usually improves the end product," Carl June, an immunotherapy specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, and scientific adviser to the U.S. trial, told Nature, according to CNN.

And early next year, Beijing University scientists hope to begin three clinical trials using gene-editing to fight bladder, prostate and renal-cell cancers.

"One of the most important elements of CRISPR development in China is scale," Christina Larson, a contributing correspondent for Science magazine, told CNN earlier this year. "It's being deployed in many different ways, in many different labs."