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Calm down – China is not racing ahead with human CRISPR trials

CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing complex

CRISPR is used to cut DNA (green)

ELLA MARU STUDIO/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

At least 86 people have been treated with the CRISPR genome-editing method in China since 2015. We know this thanks to some great reporting by three journalists working for The Wall Street Journal, who spoke with many of the people carrying out these first trials.

The WSJ says this means China is racing ahead in gene editing, while the US is being left behind. But this is rather misleading.

For starters, the first-ever use of gene editing to treat people was in the US, in 2009. Immune cells were removed from people with HIV, edited outside the body to disable the gene that the virus exploits to infect cells, then returned to the body. These trials continue.

The first-ever use of gene editing to change cells inside the body was also in the US. In November 2017,

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