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Biotechnology and health

China is already gene-editing a lot of humans

January 22, 2018

A new report says at least 86 people have had their genes edited in China to help cure disease.

Backstory: We already knew that China had experimented with CRISPR gene editing in humans since 2016, becoming the first nation in the world to do so. But no human CRISPR trials have so far taken place in America.

What’s new: An investigation by the Wall Street Journal says that CRISPR gene editing has actually been used in Chinese hospitals to treat human diseases like cancer since 2015. The new report shows the extent of the trend.

How it’s possible: Unlike the US, China allows a hospital’s ethics committee to approve research on humans. CRISPR trials can be approved within an afternoon.

But: The push to use the technique isn’t necessarily a good idea. There are still safety concerns about such treatments, from immune reactions to unintended edits.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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