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Gene editing helps a baby battle cancer

Doctors used molecular scalpels to tweak T cells to target leukemia but not harm the patient

6:01pm, November 6, 2015
baby who received experimental leukemia treatment

TEST CASE  Layla, shown here at 16 months, had an experimental treatment for leukemia. She is the first person to receive a therapy involving gene editing with molecular scalpels called TALENs. 

Doctors are performing a different kind of surgery to save patients with maladies ranging from HIV to cancer. They’re using molecular scalpels to slice genes.

This gene editing helped push a 1-year-old girl’s leukemia into remission, doctors at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London announced November 5 at a news briefing. Baby Layla’s medical team treated her with immune cells altered by one type of the molecular surgical instruments called TALENs. It’s the first time TALENs have been successfully used to treat a person.

Gene editing is becoming increasingly popular in research and clinical trials. Scientists can select from a variety of scalpels, including zinc finger nucleases, TALENs and CRISPR/Cas9. The tools all do the same thing: cut DNA at specific locations.


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