[R]esearchers demonstrated how a gene editing technique, known as Crispr-Cas9, could be used to edit living human cells, raising the possibility that a person’s DNA could be altered much as text is changed by a word-processor. Now, two biotech companies say they plan to start testing the technology in humans as early as this year.
Crispr Therapeutics has already applied for permission from European regulators to test its most advanced product, code-named CTX001, in patients suffering from beta-thalassaemia, an inherited blood disease where the body does not produce enough healthy red blood cells.
Editas Medicine, Crispr’s US-based rival, says it plans to apply for permission from the FDA in the middle of the year so it can test one of its one of its own Crispr gene-editing products in patients with a rare form of congenital blindness that causes severe vision loss at birth. If the FDA agrees, it should be able to commence trials within 30 days of the application
The field is in its infancy and progress in any new area of science is never smooth. If gene editing lives up to its promise, it could one day save or dramatically change the lives of tens of millions of patients with hitherto untreatable diseases.
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