China is going to test novel gene-editing tools. Chinese experts are going to put cancer patients on treatment trial, using a new gene editing tool. This is just one of the recent efforts by scientists to harness technology that might one day provide treatment for all kinds of diseases.
The first clinical trial in the world will involve injecting genetically engineered cells into patients with cancer. The trials are set to start next week.
Oncologists from Sichuan University in Chengdu now have official approval to commence tests with cells which have been genetically engineered, using the CRISPR technique. There are hopes that the method will come up with new cancer treatments in patients who don’t respond to chemo or radiation therapy.
The bioengineered cells will combine themselves with T-cells from the patient’s own system to fight off lung cancer cells. Experts believe that when the new and improved T cells are put back into the bloodstream, they will hunt cancer and kill it.
These developments come as several private groups in America have been given the approval to test out gene engineering in humans. The Chinese treatment will aim people where all other treatment options have failed.
The CRISPR technique works by editing a section of DNA so it can enhance T cells to recognize cancer and fight it. Usually, T cells do not attack cells belonging to the human body, even if they are cancers.
But there are concerns over this new method. Some fear that if used incorrectly, the technique might determine T cells to attack many other cells in the body, for example, healthy tissue, not just cancer.
If the technique proves safe to use, it will have applications in the drug industry, and it could even help tailor new personalized drugs.
The experiments will take place at the West China Hospital, a top treatment facility in China. The first stage of the trial will last for two months. If all goes well, the second group of patients will receive this innovative treatment.
This potential breakthrough comes after a series of steps made by China in this direction: first it was human embryos which were genetically engineered using the CRISPR method. Then, they tried the same technique in monkeys. And now they received the green light for human testing.
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