First CRISPR Gene Editing Trials on Humans Approved

First CRISPR Gene Editing Trials on Humans Approved

A team of doctors from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine have become the first to be approved to begin trials using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique on humans. CRISPR is a gene-editing technology, developed by Japanese scientists in 1987, which can cut and replace DNA with great precision. The trial, which was approved by the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, aims to engineer cells to become immune to cancer.

“Last year’s excitement over CRISPR was in anticipation of this,” Dean Anthony Lee, an immunologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and a member RAC, which approved its use, told Nature.

“Cell therapies [for cancer] are so promising but the majority of people who get these therapies have a disease that relapses,” study leader Edward Stadtmauer added.

The trial is being funded by the Parker Immunotherapy Foundation, set up by Napster founder and early Facebook investor Sean Parker, and will attempt to edit the T-cells of 18 patients suffering from melanoma, sarcoma, or myeloma cancers.

While this marks the first time CRISPR has been approved for use on humans, UK scientists were granted permission to test the technology on human embryos back in February this year.

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