It started like any other day. Dr. Hao Yin walked into the lab at MIT, ready to check on his transgenic mice. He had no idea he was about to make history.

Yin’s mice harbored a single mutated gene that gave them a terrible liver disease. Left untreated, the deteriorating liver fails to process nutrients, and the mice eventually whittle down to skin and bones.

Yin was testing an audacious new gene therapy, first discovered a year prior in bacteria. What he saw stopped him stone cold: while the control mice had shed one-fifth of their normal body weight, their treated counterparts remained plump and healthy.

The “miracle” treatment in question? CRISPR.

Yin and colleagues were the first to definitively show that CRISPR could be used in living animals to correct genetic mutations and treat disease. That was in 2014.

A scientific firestorm followed: by 2016, CRISPR-enhanced immune warriors were already given to a cancer patient to battle his rogue cells. A year later, the technique was used to edit human embryos, sparking debates about designer babies. Roughly 20 CRISPR clinical trials are gearing up for action. Momentum keeps building.

Image Credit:  MIT News

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