An advisory panel at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has approved a proposal to use the gene-editing technology CRISPR on human cells. It’s the first trial involving humans to be approved in the U.S.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania want to use CRISPR on immune system cells from approximately 18 people with cancer to ultimately help improve treatment. The first trial will test whether CRISPR is safe to use in people. The plan is for researchers to remove immune cells from people with melanoma, sarcoma or myeloma and edit them with CRISPR; the cells will then be put back into the men and women to see how they react.
The trial—which still needs to get approval from the medical organizations that will conduct it—will be funded by a cancer organization founded by former Facebook president Sean Parker. According to the medical news site STAT, the trial is planned to take place at the University of Pennsylvania, MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of California, San Francisco.
CRISPR is considered one of the greatest recent breakthroughs in science. As TIME reported in this week’s cover story, the technology holds promise for all kinds of interventions, including removing genetic mutations involved in incurable disease. Read TIME’s story here and watch an explainer on how CRISPR works.