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Chinese Scientists Will Begin First Human CRISPR Gene-Editing Trial

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A group of Chinese scientists will be the first in the world to use the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology on humns in a clinical trial set to begin next month.

The team plans to start by testing cells in people with lung cancer, the science journal Nature reported. The trial received approval from the ethical review board at Sichuan University’s West China Hospital in Chengdu on July 6.

CRISPR is a powerful technology that has the potential to change human lives by allowing scientists to remove or edit genetic mutations responsible for incurable diseases.

The Chinese trial will include patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer and who have not seen success from chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other treatments.

“Treatment options are very limited,” Lu You, an oncologist leading the trial team, told Nature. “This technique is of great promise in bringing benefits to patients, especially the cancer patients whom we treat every day.”

Other teams have run human clinical trials using a different gene-editing technique.

A team in the United States is also planning a human clinical trial that would use CRISPR-Cas9 to treat cancer. The National Institutes of Health approved that project last month, Nature reported at the time, but it still needs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a university review board to sign off. U.S. researchers said they expect that trial could begin by the end of 2016.

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Write to Abigail Abrams at abigail.abrams@time.com