While gene therapy is still in its infancy, scientists need to monitor patients who have received gene editing treatments. However, scientists in China do not track patients who have experimental gene therapy that can trigger health problems later on. ( Arek Socha | Pixabay )
In fact, China has surpassed the United States in using the innovative CRISPR technique, a gene editing tool, to edit the DNA of several people in a number of clinical trials.
However, there is a problem that arises. Scientists have difficulty tracking patients undergoing experimental gene therapy in the country.
Gene Therapy in China
While gene therapy is still in its infancy, scientists need to monitor patients who have received gene editing treatments. According to the Wall Street Journal, a number of cancer patients in China undergo gene modification with a gene editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9, in the hope of being cured of deadly diseases.
The problem is that some Chinese scientists conducting experiments have neglected to track patients after undergoing gene therapy and carrying out further examinations on them.
DNA modification through the CRISPR technique can lead to what is called the knock-off effect. People who undergo gene editing treatment may succumb to health problems predicted such as autoimmune disorders that will manifest years later.
"Because we don't fully understand the human genome and are still developing knowledge about [CRISPR-Cas9 and related technologies]"We need to monitor the intended and undesirable consequences of the patient's age," explained Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-inventor of CRISPR.
Biomedical research in China is currently faced with unintentional consequences for changing the human genome. In November, news of He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist, who claimed to be the first in the world to present the first gene-edited baby, shocked the scientific community.
Jiankui, who works at the South University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, revealed that he modified human embryo DNA, where twin girls were born, to make them immune to HIV. After the shocking disclosure of Jiankui, the Chinese government has taken steps to restrain unacceptable scientific practices.
Use of CRISPR on Editing Human DNA
In January this year, the WSJ reported that around 86 Chinese people had undergone gene editing, with some evidence showing at least 11 human CRISPR trials. The first clinical trial in China, according to the previous WSJ report, was carried out the fastest in 2015.
In contrast, the first human CRISPR trial was conducted in the United States this year, at the University of Pennsylvania, involving 18 people. The main purpose of this experiment is to prove whether it is safe to use the CRISPR technique for editing human DNA.
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