CRISPR gene editing is coming for the womb

 

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When an unborn baby is diagnosed with a life-threatening defect, it can be devastating. So some scientists hope to treat the fetus in the uterus, using gene editing.

WILLIAM PERANTEAU IS the guy parents call when they’ve received the kind of bad news that sinks stomachs and wrenches hearts. Sometimes it’s a shadow on an ultrasound or a few base pairs out of place on a prenatal genetic test, revealing that an unborn child has a life-threatening developmental defect. Pediatric surgeons like Peranteau, who works at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, usually can’t try to fix these abnormalities until their patients leave their mother’s bodies behind. And by then it might be too late.

It’s with the memory of the families he couldn’t help in the back of his mind that Peranteau has joined a small group of scientists trying to bring the fast-moving field of gene editing to the womb. Such editing in humans is a long way off, but a spate of recent advances in mouse studies highlight its potential advantages over other methods of using Crispr to snip away diseases. Parents confronted with an in utero diagnosis are often faced with only two options: terminate the pregnancy or prepare to care for a child who may require multiple invasive surgeries over the course of their lifetime just to survive. Prenatal gene editing may offer a third potential path. “What we see as the future is a minimally invasive way of treating these abnormalities at their genetic origin instead,” says Peranteau.

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Inside the Controversy: Chinese scientists creating CRISPR babies

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A daring effort is under way to create the first children whose DNA has been tailored using gene editing.

When Chinese researchers first edited the genes of a human embryo in a lab dish in 2015, it sparked global outcry and pleas from scientists not to make a baby using the technology, at least for the present.

It was the invention of a powerful gene-editing tool, CRISPR, which is cheap and easy to deploy, that made the birth of humans genetically modified in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) center a theoretical possibility.

Now, it appears it may already be happening.

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The future of medicine may land within five to 10 years, CRISPR inventor says

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A pioneer of the Crispr gene-editing technology that’s taken Wall Street by storm says the field is probably five to 10 years away from having an approved therapy for patients.

Biochemist Jennifer Doudna, who runs the Doudna Lab at the University of California at Berkeley, says major questions remain about the safety and effectiveness of experimental therapies that aim to disrupt or repair defective genes. But she’s optimistic about their prospects.

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Gene editing for good

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How CRISPR could transform global development.

Today, more people are living healthy, productive lives than ever before. This good news may come as a surprise, but there is plenty of evidence for it. Since the early 1990s, global child mortality has been cut in half. There have been massive reductions in cases of tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. The incidence of polio has decreased by 99 percent, bringing the world to the verge of eradicating a major infectious disease, a feat humanity has accomplished only once before, with smallpox. The proportion of the world’s population in extreme poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.90 per day, has fallen from 35 percent to about 11 percent.

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Bill Gates thinks these six innovations could change the world

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When Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press, he changed the course of history. You could say the same about Thomas Edison’s light bulb, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, and Grace Hopper’s compiler. What will be the next great invention to transform history? Here are a few innovations that I think are worth watching.

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Using Gene Editing to Transform Cancer

 

You may have heard of the gene-editing technique CRISPR-cas9, often simply called CRISPR. Introduced in 2012, CRISPR works like a pair of scissors to cut DNA, inserting or reordering bits of genetic code with remarkable, science-fiction-like results: CRISPR can help create mosquitoes that don’t transmit malaria, or be used to breed unusually muscular beagles, or even create mini pigs. In humans, the technology is being tested to battle cancer — by removing patients’ immune cells, editing them, and reinserting the weaponized cells into the body to hunt cancer.

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