|Manu||Date: Monday, 21-November-2016, 1:49 AM | Message # 1|
|New era of 'cut and paste' humans close as man injected with genetically-edited blood|
BY Sarah Knapton, Science Editor
world where DNA can be rewritten to fix deadly diseases has moved a step closer after scientists announced they had genetically-edited the cells of a human for the first time using a groundbreaking technique.
A man in China was injected with modified immune cells which had been engineered to fight his lung cancer. Larger trials are scheduled to take place next year in the US and Beijing, which scientists say could open up a new era of genetic medicine.
The technique used is called Crispr, which works like tiny molecular scissors snipping away genetic code and replacing it with new instructions to build better cells
It has been hailed the future of genetic editing because it is far cheaper, easier and more accurate than previous methods of replacing DNA code.
British experts said the technique has the power to be ‘transformative’ for many diseases and said they were expecting to see ‘significant progress in the next few years.’
Prof Andrew Sharrocks, of the faculty of biology, medicine and health at the University of Manchester said: “It is clear that with future improvements in the Crispr technology that the current study will be the first of many that attempt to harness this technology for treating human medical conditions.
“Treating cancer is one of the uses but also potentially combating auto-immune type diseases including things like arthritis although a lot more work will be needed to bring that to fruition.
“I would expect similar types of approaches to be pioneered in the next few years as the potential for using this technology in the medical sphere is high and potentially transformative.”
In the case of the Chinese man, scientists led by oncologist Dr Lu You at Sichuan University in Chengdu, took immune cells from his blood and disabled a gene which holds the instructions to build a protein called PD-1.
PD-1 works like an antenna, sitting on the surface of immune cells, and looking out for healthy cells, so that the immune system knows not to attack them.
However cancer masquerades as a healthy cell which is why it is often so deadly because the immune system does not see it as a threat
To give the immune system a better chance against cancer, the scientists took immune cells from the Chinese man and altered their DNA to remove the antenna, before increasing them in a lab and injecting them back into the patient’s bloodstream.
Experts say it is effectively like cutting the brakes on the immune system.
The initial phase one trial was carried out for safety, and doctors will be monitoring the man’s progress over the next six months. They are also planning to inject ten more people with genetically edited immune cells in the coming months.
Dr Carl June, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia is also planning a trial in the US next year which will target three genes to treat cancer, while Peking University is planning Crispr trials for bladder, prostate and renal-cell in China next March.
Prof June said the race had begun to get gene edited cells into the clinic.
"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,” he told the journal Nature.
Although there are no trials ongoing in the UK at the moment, British scientists have already been at the forefront of genetic editing techniques and are likely to start trials in the near future.
READ MORE/FULL ARTICLE/SOURCE - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science....h-genet