Chinese scientists just became the first team to test CRISPR gene editing on a real human being. It’s a pretty big move, and one that could start a “biomedical duel” with the United States, where scientists are also hard at work trying to advance this revolutionary field.
According to Nature, researchers at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, injected modified cells into a patient with aggressive lung cancer on October 28. The patient, whose identity is being withheld for privacy reasons, is said to be doing well and awaiting a follow-up treatment, though it’s unclear if the gene editing trial will succeed.
Regardless, it’s a major step forward. American teams were planning on using CRISPR — a groundbreaking gene editing technique that offers scientists unprecedented control over the formation of cells — on humans by 2017. Now that the U.S. got scooped by China, it’s up to American scientists to one-up the Chinese discoveries with new research and medical breakthroughs.
“I think this is going to trigger ‘Sputnik 2.0’,” Carl June, an immunotherapy expert at the University of Pennsylvania, told Nature. June likened it to “a biomedical duel on progress between China and the United States, which is important since competition usually improves the end product.”
Inverse called CRISPR a science to watch in 2016. Looks like things might heat up even more next year.