Two teams of scientists are using CRISPR on humans.

CBC News reports on the pioneering work (and maybe friendly rivalry) being used to cure lung cancer with edited genes:

[F]or scientists like Jason Moffat, at the University of Toronto, it’s amazing news.

“That’s fast,” he said. “They’re pushing the technology really hard.”

Scientists are now using CRISPR in a range of wild experiments. They’ve already designed a mechanism that could wipe out mosquitoes. And they’re also toying with using it to bring the woolly mammoth back to life.

It’s a tool so powerful, it could be used to permanently alter the human genome in a way that could be passed on to future generations.

CRISPR is not a therapy on its own. It’s a tool. But because of its precision, researchers are hoping it will be able to make genetic edits that are more effective than the traditional gene-editing techniques, to trigger a patient’s immune system to kill cancer cells.

Both the U.S. and the Chinese teams intend to use CRISPR in similar ways, but on different cancers. The Chinese will target non-small-cell lung cancer; the U.S. team will work on melanoma, sarcoma and myeloid cancers.

They will harvest a type of immune cell, known as T cells, from a patient’s blood and then use CRISPR to tinker with a particular gene in a way that will activate the T cells to attack cancer cells. And then they will put the CRISPR-ed cells back into the patient’s body to destroy tumours.

“These first tests, if done properly, are going to pave the way for how to use CRISPR to treat disease,” said Moffat.

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