Next month, Chinese researchers will edit adult human DNA using the revolutionary CRISPR/Cas-9 tool, commonly known as CRISPR, for the first time anywhere in the world.
The researchers will attempt to cut faulty DNA out of the cells of lung cancer patients who have failed to respond to all other conventional treatments.
Chinese scientists have previously used CRISPR on non-viable human embryos, without much luck, but this is the first time any researchers, anywhere in the world, will use the tool to edit DNA in an adult.
If successful, the hope is that it could lead to further CRISPR treatments – CRISPR/Cas-9 allows researchers to effectively cut and paste DNA in cells, and, in animals, it’s already been shown to treat genetic diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
The new trial will begin at Sichuan University’s West China Hospital next month, according to Nature, and will involve patients who’ve already gone through chemotherapy and radiation therapy – in other words, are out of options.
In the past, scientists have spoken out about the ethical concerns surrounding the use of CRISPR, which is capable of causing genetic changes to sperm and egg cells that can be passed down to future generations.
There are also concerns that it could lead to the development of ‘designer’ babies – where parents pick and choose certain traits to write into their child’s DNA.
But it’s important to note that the new Chinese study will only edit patients’ immune system T-cells,…