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Chinese Scientists Become First To Use CRISPR Gene-Editing On Humans (popularmechanics.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Popular Mechanics: A team of Chinese scientists from Sichuan University in Chengdu have become the first to inject a person with cells modified with the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9. The trial involved modifying a patient's own immune system cells to make them more effective at combating cancer cells and then injecting them back into the patient. The Chinese trial was approved back in July, and United States medical scientists also plan to use CRISPR as an experimental treatment for cancer patients in early 2017. The CRISPR-Cas9 "tool" is a DNA construct that can be injected into any organism -- in this case, human immune system T cells -- to modify the genome of that organism. It works in three steps: an RNA sequence guides the CRISPR construct to the correct part of the organism's DNA, the Cas9 enzyme "cuts out" that segment of DNA, and then, as an optional third step, a new DNA sequence can be inserted to replace the deleted segment of the genome. In the case of the Chinese trial, conducted October 28 at the West China Hospital in Chengdu, only the first two steps of the CRISPR-Cas9 process were carried out. Immune system cells were extracted from a patient with metastatic lung cancer, and then the gene code that produces a protein called PD-1 was deleted by the Cas9 enzyme. PD-1 instructs T cells to stop or slow an immune system response, and cancer cells can take advantage of this protein to trick the body into responding to the ailment with less than full force. Once the PD-1 protein was removed with CRISPR, the edited cells were cultivated to increase their numbers and then injected back into the patient. This is the first of two injections for the patient, and an additional nine patients in the trial will receive between two and four injections of edited cells, depending on their individual conditions. Carl June, scientific advisor for the planned U.S. trial, told Nature: "I think this is going to trigger 'Sputnik 2.0,' a biomedical duel in progress between China and the United States, which is important since competition usually improves the end product."
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Chinese Scientists Become First To Use CRISPR Gene-Editing On Humans

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  • What could go wrong?

    Cancer. Death. Disease. Things we already have and could potentially cure with this.

    People could die. People will die, with or without this. Maybe, just maybe, this could mean fewer people dying unnecessary deaths.

    Is this a moon shot? No. This has the possibility of saving millions of lives. Millions of people who have the potential to make the world better, for all of humanity, for the species. Most importantly, this has the potential to make the world better for the people who don't di

    • Re:Do it, do it now! (Score:5, Informative)

      by SemperUbi ( 673908 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2016 @11:50PM (#53294373)
      This particular use of CRISPR-Cas9 should be pretty low risk. Tumors are often surrounded by lymphocytes, cells which ordinarily have the power to kill cancer cells -- but many cancers give off signals that cause the lymphocytes to ignore tumors cells and let them grow. It's like the mafia buying off the local cops. Modifying tumor-reactive lymphocytes ex vivo might wake them up and help them do their job and go after the tumor again. In a patient with terminal cancer, this treatment should be pretty low risk and could give him a bit longer to live.
      • In a patient with terminal cancer, this treatment should be pretty low risk and could give him a bit longer to live.

        Im sure they said the same thing about Lex Luthor...

      • In a patient with terminal cancer, this treatment should be pretty low risk and could give him a bit longer to live.

        Assuming the organ damage isnt too far gone , it could damn well save the patient.

    • This has the possibility of saving millions of lives. Millions of people who have the potential to make the world better, for all of humanity, for the species.

      It's also millions of people who have the potential to make the world worse. And something tells me the people who get this will be your Dick Cheneys, not your Mahatma Gandhis.

      • by tsa ( 15680 )

        Luckily gut feelings turn out to be mostly wrong.

      • And something tells me the people who get this will be your Dick Cheneys, not your Mahatma Gandhis.

        You should read more about Gandhi's personal life. In many ways, including the way he treated his wife and children, he was a pretty despicable human being.

        • I buy that. Even more to my point. Saving lives should be the last thing on anybody's mind.
          • I buy that. Even more to my point. Saving lives should be the last thing on anybody's mind.

            That makes no sense at all. Early death has a huge negative impact on society at large. The way to demographic transition includes reducing unnecessary and random sickness and death, allowing people to expect to live their lives smoothly. Cancer takes people out when they are productive and contributing members of society. Ironically, one of the keys to reducing rapid population growth is to reduce death.

      • This has the possibility of saving millions of lives. Millions of people who have the potential to make the world better, for all of humanity, for the species.

        It's also millions of people who have the potential to make the world worse. And something tells me the people who get this will be your Dick Cheneys, not your Mahatma Gandhis.

        While I have yet to see an Adolf Hitler arise out of an ALS patient, we did get Stephen Hawking. Furthermore, cancer comes so late in life that by then they'd already be in power, or you'd already know what their personality is like.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        "It's also millions of people who have the potential to make the world worse. And something tells me the people who get this will be your Dick Cheneys, not your Mahatma Gandhis."

        This is the Green argument in favor of human extinction.

    • by tsa ( 15680 )

      This so supercool! With one modification you releave a family from certain horrible genes for all generations from then on! Finally daughters can be born without the breast cancer gene that gave their mothers and grandmothers this horrible disease.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        As other AC put it, Crispr is currently about 30% efficient (I think..), i.e. 7 out of 10 cells treated won't integrate the modification. It's also very difficult to confirm whether the modification succeeded. That means you really can't do it in a grown organism unless you culture and select cells outside of the body and implant them.

        It can be used on ova however, but the ethics committees are understandably nervous about heritable modifications. I wouldn't be surprised if in 10-20 years we'll be hearing a

        • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

          On the other hand a 30% efficient edit would probably be just fine to fix say the well known defects that causes Cystic Fibrosis. In fact Wikipedia tells me that there has been a functional repair in culture of the CFTR gene by CRISPR/Cas9. It also tells me that the most common mutiation of the CFTR gene accounts for 2/3 of all CF case world wide an 90% in the USA.

          I am sure that a whole range of autosomal recessive diseases (aka ones where a single functioning copy of the gene is sufficient to suffer no or

  • read this as: A team of Chinese scientists from Sichuan University in Chengdu have become the first to infect a person with ...
  • by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @01:04AM (#53294601)

    I saw the ugly truth of biomedical research when I was in grad school. TLDR, while every last stinking one of us has every possible motivation to spend EVERY spare penny not keeping us alive in the near term on the research (since it's the only thing that has the slightest chance of making sure we continue living past a mere 7-10 decades), there are 2 nasty problems :

    1. Due to extreme amounts of government and institutional red tape, nothing gets done. Nothing. All those stories you read of brain implants? Basically never going to happen. That's because the way the legal system works is, institution administrators always have to ask "can WE be blamed if this goes wrong?" Basically, if the research kills someone but ultimately saves 1000 lives, our courts won't give any credit to the 1000 lives saved, it's all about slamming the institution for making an error. Also, the government has a very poor model for assessing results. If a drug works on cancer that has failed every other treatment, you don't need a trial with 1000+ participants. Cancers that reach that stage don't just disappear for no reason. A trial with 20 people is enough if 10 of them get up and leave with their tumors destroyed. This is a very strong effect and one that shouldn't require the one size fits all approach the FDA demands.

    2. Most medical spending is on overpriced procedures and drugs and equipment that all suck.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @01:13AM (#53294621)

      1. Due to extreme amounts of government and institutional red tape, nothing gets done. Nothing. All those stories you read of brain implants? Basically never going to happen.

      It will happen, just not in America. In China, stuff gets done.

      America will take at least 30 years to build a high speed train from SF to LA, at a cost of $100-300B.
      China built the high speed train from Shanghai to Beijing (twice the distance from SF to LA) in 3 years, at a cost of $32B.

      • by quenda ( 644621 )

        America will take at least 30 years to build a high speed train from SF to LA, at a cost of $100-300B.
        China built the high speed train from Shanghai to Beijing (twice the distance from SF to LA) in 3 years, at a cost of $32B.

        To be fair, America built the trans-continental railway in a few years for $50 mil, back when they had cheap Chinese labour, and no health and safety or other red tape.

        • America will take at least 30 years to build a high speed train from SF to LA, at a cost of $100-300B. China built the high speed train from Shanghai to Beijing (twice the distance from SF to LA) in 3 years, at a cost of $32B.

          To be fair, America built the trans-continental railway in a few years for $50 mil, back when they had cheap Chinese labour, and no health and safety or other red tape.

          And the Chinese build the Chinese wall, something something. It is not fair to bring that comparison when the financial contexts, times and places then and now are basically incomparable.

          • by quenda ( 644621 )

            It is not fair to bring that comparison when the financial contexts, times and places then and now are basically incomparable.

            Yes, you seem to have correctly taken *my* point. The current US and China contexts are incomparable.

      • by EmeraldBot ( 3513925 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @03:22AM (#53294883)

        1. Due to extreme amounts of government and institutional red tape, nothing gets done. Nothing. All those stories you read of brain implants? Basically never going to happen.

        It will happen, just not in America. In China, stuff gets done.

        America will take at least 30 years to build a high speed train from SF to LA, at a cost of $100-300B. China built the high speed train from Shanghai to Beijing (twice the distance from SF to LA) in 3 years, at a cost of $32B.

        Safety regulations don't prevent trains, public aversion to taxes does. If you're not willing to invest in your government, then you can't seriously expect it to cover the cost of something like this, and there's no way a private provider is going to risk a loss of revenue on a project of questionable profitability. I'm not weighing on whether I think it's right or not, but if you're against large government, then I'm afraid you'd also have to be against large government projects too. Also, don't forget that there's a reason we put in worker and safety regulations - there was a time when Americans worked for minimum wage 12+ hours a day with no worker's comp or health insurance, much like these people in China would be.

        • "Safety regulations don't prevent trains, public aversion to taxes does. "

          This is not what happened to the California bullet train, because the money was in place. It was stopped by NIMBYs who kept filing suits until the cost exceeded all foreseeable budgets. There are two factors to Chinese strength: its government is studded with engineers, in the same way that ours is riddled with lawyers; and China ignores NIMBY sentiment and Just Fucking Builds it.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          What about Japan then? It's building not just a high speed line, but a maglev line that is 90% tunnels between Tokyo and Osaka. Tunnels though some of the most challenging terrain in the world, lots of new technology, and privately funded.

          They look at it as a long term investment, and get revenue not just from carrying passengers, but from building shopping centres and other facilities around the stations.

          Oh, and there has never been a single fatal accident on Japanese high speed rail. For construction work

          • by EmeraldBot ( 3513925 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @08:11AM (#53295675)

            What about Japan then? It's building not just a high speed line, but a maglev line that is 90% tunnels between Tokyo and Osaka. Tunnels though some of the most challenging terrain in the world, lots of new technology, and privately funded.

            They look at it as a long term investment, and get revenue not just from carrying passengers, but from building shopping centres and other facilities around the stations.

            Oh, and there has never been a single fatal accident on Japanese high speed rail. For construction workers too it is extremely safe.

            I entirely agree with you, and you make precisely my point. As someone who currently lives in Japan, in Tokyo, I can say without a doubt that it has a far more advanced infrastructure than any American city - Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New York, it tops them all. You can go anywhere with trains and buses, you have ridiculously extensive malls carrying a wide array of merchandise from big and small sellers alike, the roads are very well maintained, and in general it's an incredibly sophisticated and advanced style of living, waaaaaaay above anything in the US can compare to.

            The above also requires most citizens to pay 30-50% of their income in taxes, numerous and expensive tolls throughout the highway system, and in general a big government that is pretty active in people's lives and is willing to help pay for all of this. If you ever advocate for this in America, you're instantly labeled as "Socialist", right up there with Hugo Chavez, and nobody will listen to you any farther. However, these very same people then applaud China or India or whoever for making these huge investments, and how backwards the US is for not doing the same. These people want all of the amazing infrastructure and economic investment for absolutely free and no personal sacrifice at all, and that just isn't sustainable. If people want an article of confederations style government, then they have to accept that moving beyond what we have now is never going to happen, and that the US is going to continue to rank behind every other first world country for quality of life.

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              Tax in Japan isn't particularly high:

              United Kingdom -57.28%
              France - 58.10%
              Canada -58.13%
              Japan - 58.68%
              Australia- 59.30%
              United States - 60.45% (based on New York state tax)

              That's the amount of income you get to keep, based on a married person with two children, one under 6.

              Sales tax is 8% in Japan, compared to 20% in the UK. I agree that there are more tolls in Japan for things like the highway though, but on the other hand petrol is much cheaper than the UK too.

              • Hey did you use a site to get your numbers? If so, which? I've often worked out numbers like that myself, manually, to prove points - but it would be great if there was a more convenient option :)
            • The above also requires most citizens to pay 30-50% of their income in taxes,

              You realize that many people pay 30-50% taxes in the US right?

              For $100,000/year:

              NYC - 3.5%
              NYS - 6%
              Federal - 26%

              That's over 30% not counting 8.875 sales tax; real estate tax; water and sewage tax; $15 tolls to cross bridges.

              yeah. tax rate already meets your standards. And no. Taxes should not go higher. And no, higher taxes will not solve the problem. Every politician comes round and says "raise taxes and 'x' will
            • by Anonymous Coward
              Ah yeah, your quality of life is so great in your $3000/month 400 sq ft apartment. Waiting around to get in trains so you can sit next to someone that hasn't bathed in a week so you can go to an overcrowded shopping center and carry your groceries back to your tiny living space. Such high quality of living.
        • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
          The $X00 billion high-speed rail line in CA has nothing to do with willingness to pay taxes and everything to do with inefficiency and corruption in government projects. The majority of money will be spent on acquiring property rights and dealing with lawsuits. The project can't go ahead until it makes everyone happy. And I mean everyone, because even you can file lawsuits on behalf of the environment saying this endangered nematode or whatever will lose its habitat.

          Meanwhile in China, you either accept
    • I'm pretty sure China will have no issues ignoring all moral quandries about experimenting on prisoners and will press on regardless

      • I'm pretty sure China will have no issues ignoring all moral quandries about experimenting on prisoners and will press on regardless

        If they do, they won't be able to publish in any Western peer-reviewed journal, all of which contain some version 'studies must conform to the declaration of Helsinki' and all of which ask reviewers whether there are any ethical concerns regarding human or animal experiments.

    • by I4ko ( 695382 )
      I suggest that you are over exaggerating and looking in the wrong direction. The government doesn't make it expensive. The "for profit" element in the western countries is what makes it expensive. The greedy desire to have anywhere from 400% to 6000% profit.
  • "I think this is going to trigger 'Sputnik 2.0,' a biomedical duel in progress between China and the United States, which is important since competition usually improves the end product."

    this guy might disagree: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • Do they want zombies? Because I'm pretty sure this is how you get zombies. :)
  • by j-beda ( 85386 ) on Wednesday November 16, 2016 @12:41PM (#53297383) Homepage

    Best "Mr. Sandman" rewrite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    CRISPR-Cas9
    Bring me a gene
    Encoding for a specific protein
    Make a few snips at this coded locus
    You work so well inside a streptococcus
    Cas9
    I'm so alone
    Without your scissors in my chromosome
    Cut me up and do it clean
    CRISPR-Cas9 bring me a gene ....

  • CRISPeR, tastier, zestier, crunchier!

    I am just fishing for points, so sue me, or mod me

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