Testing of new medical breakthroughs in the US take a very long time to move from animal trials into human trials. In China a group of researchers led by oncologist Lu You at Sichuan University in Chengdu have become the first in the world to inject cells into a person that were edited using the CRISPR-Cas9 technique. The person who was injected with the cells is suffering from an aggressive lung cancer and the injection was part of a clinical trial at West China Hospital in Chengdu.
Cells edited using a different technique have been tried in human trials in China previously and the results have been described as exciting. The new CRISPR technique is simpler and more efficient than other gene editing techniques. The Chinese team believes that it being first in the world to inject the cells into a person will accelerate a race to get gene-edited cells into clinics around the world.
“I think this is going to trigger ‘Sputnik 2.0’, a biomedical duel on progress between China and the United States, which is important since competition usually improves the end product,” says Carl June.
The Chinese team removed immune cells from the body of the person. They then edited the removed cells using CRISPR-Cas9 combining a DNA-cutting enzyme with a molecular guide that is programmed to tell the enzyme to disable gene codes for the protein PD-1. That protein is normally used to slow the immune response of the body, which is what cancer takes advantage of to grow.
The person who received the cell is said to be doing well and will soon get a second injection. No details have been given on the condition of the person receiving the treatment due to confidentiality.