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A recent article from Nature reports the Chinese scientists have been the first to inject humans with genes edited by the CRISPR-Cas9 technique. On October 28th a team of oncologists at Sichuan University injected the modified cells into a patient with aggressive lung cancer as a part of a clinical trial. Though this is not the first time oncology clinical trials have used edited cells it is the first time with the new and significantly more efficient CRISPR technique This new method will hopeful speed up the race to get gene-edited cells in to clinics across the world. One scientist has predicted a sort of "Sputnik 2.0" with the race being a biomedical duel between the United States and China. With competitive research occurring these studies usually come to marked quicker and the end product is better than had the field been less competitive. The U.S. will soon be using the new technology in a cancer trial that is predicted to start in early 2017. Another Chinese trial is expected to begin in March 2017 specifically focusing on bladder, renal, and prostate cancers. Neither of these trials have approval or funding yet. Specifics about the trial in China were included and began with researchers removing immune cells from a cancer infected patient. They would then use CRISPR, which combines a DNA-cutting enzyme with a molecular guide that can be programmed to tell the enzyme precisely where to cut, to disable a gene in the immune cell. The specific gene they were disabling usually puts a stop to the immune response, a trait cancers can take advantage of to continue proliferating. After the gene splicing the cells were cultivated and injected back into patient. The hope is that with that specific gene blacked that the cells will be able to fight off and defeat the cancer. The Chinese team plans on treating ten people with this method who will each receive two, three, or four injections. For six months these patients will be monitored for any adverse effects and to see if they are benefiting from the treatment. Oncologists across the world are excited for this study and are looking froward in hopes of bettering and saving more lives.

-Elizabeth Struyk

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  1. I did my blog post on gene drives and the implications are absolutely remarkable.  I'm fascinated to see where this technology will go with respect to humans, and am excited to see how this can further our understanding of illnesses.