Chinese scientists have injected a person with cells that have been tweaked by the genome-editing technique, CRISPR, for the very first time. The procedure was part of a clinical trial led by oncologist Lu You at the West China Hospital in Chengdu. The procedure involved editing immune cells from a patient with aggressive lung cancer and then injecting them back into the patient to help defeat the disease.
Trials with modified cells have been run before. But this is the first time that scientists are using cells edited with CRISPR — a genetic copy-and-paste tool that makes modifying cells easier and cheaper. The technique can allow scientists to make cells grow and multiply faster, in addition to inserting instructions to kill cancer on sight. A trial with CRISPR-edited cells is expected to begin early next year in the US to treat various types of cancers.
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