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Base Editing: Doctors Are Jubilant and Astonished

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

In case you missed it. About a month ago, at the height of the Elon Musk clown show, and just as Harry and Meghan were getting ready to embark on the final leg of their grim-faced campaign to flog off any remaining shreds of dignity, a small research hospital in London unveiled an extraordinary milestone in the history of medicine, which some say is on par with the first heart transplant or the invention of the polio vaccine.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children logo

On 11 December 2022, the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children announced they had cured a 13-year-old girl, Alyssa, from an 'incurable' form of leukaemia, using a modified form of CRISPR that instead of cutting DNA, changes one letter to another. It's a technique known as base editing, invented just six years ago, and this is the first time it's been used on a person.

Following the treatment, Alyssa has no detectable cancer cells, and is now in remission.

In medical circles, the news has been greeted with jubilation and astonishment. The miraculous cure of a 13 year old British teenager, via a new science that could result in millions of lives being saved from cancer, is to be lauded as another astounding medical innovation.

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