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First step in study shows CRISPR gene-edited cells are safe for use in cancer patients

February 6, 2020, 10:42 PM UTC

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Happy Thursday, readers!

Cool science is intrinsically exciting. And the concept of slicing and dicing DNA through CRISPR gene-editing in order to treat conditions ranging from cancer to inherited disorders is ever-so-cool—on top of being a massive opportunity for investors and businesses, and, most importantly, potentially life-changing for patients (always good to keep them top of mind).

But from the early days of the genomic revolution, there’s been a key question: are edited cells safe to use in humans?

On Thursday, we got at least a little bit more information on the safety-side of this nascent biological tech—and it’s good news.

The University of Pennsylvania and other researchers, who are running the first-ever CRISPR gene-editing study on humans in the U.S., announced that deploying genetically modified cells to to fight cancer is safe for patients. This is a follow-up on their November news that reported early-stage safety trial data for the clinical trials approved in 2016.

The new report adds to the theory that this technology, at the very least, won’t be harmful. Though they don’t know if the modified genes will fight cancers, tests can move ahead without adding extra worries for researchers, doctors, or patients—and that is no small thing.

But, it’s worth stating the flip side of all this good news once more: Efficacy in fighting cancers—and the details about which types it may be most effective against—are still completely up in the air. This is, literally, the very first step of the clinical trial process. Consider it due diligence.

And it’s possible that even the safety concerns may re-emerge depending on the specific disease that a patient has.

Still, it’s an intriguing advance for one of the most fascinating biotechnological innovations in decades. We’ll definitely be watching to see what happens next.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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