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First human genetic editing trial in China

Chinese scientists are going to perform the world’s first genetic editing trial on humans in an attempt to find a cure for lung cancer.

It will be performed as the trial phase by injecting cells that have been modified using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique into the patients.

Key Facts

  • In this trial, scientists will extract T cells, a type of immune cell, from the patient’s blood.
  • Then they will put the gene that encodes the PD-1 protein, which normally limits the cell’s capacity to launch an immune response.
  • The edited cells will be allowed to multiply in the lab before being reintroduced to the patients. This process will kick-start the T cells to launch an attack on the tumour cells.
  • This method is like building a cancer-fighting army outside the patient body. However the only concern is that T cells might also attack normal tissue.

What is CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique?

  • CRISPR short form of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. It allows scientists to selectively edit genome parts and replace them with new DNA stretches.
  • Cas9 is an enzyme that can edit DNA, allowing the alteration of genetic patterns by genome modification. CRISPR is a collection of DNA sequences that direct Cas9 where to cut and paste.
  • CRISPR-Cas9 technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of blood diseases, tumours and other genetic diseases.

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