A similar mutation in the same gene causes the equivalent inherited liver disease in humans – and the successful repair of the genetic defect in laboratory mice raises hopes that the first clinical trials on patients could begin within a few years, scientists said.
The success is the latest achievement in the field of genome editing. This has been transformed by the discovery of Crispr, a technology that allows scientists to make almost any DNA changes at precisely defined points on the chromosomes of animals or plants. Crispr – pronounced “crisper” – was initially discovered in 1987 as an immune defence used by bacteria against invading viruses. Its powerful genome-editing potential in higher animals, including humans, was only fully realised in 2012 and 2013 when scientists showed that it can be combined with a DNA-sniping enzyme called Cas9 and used to edit the human genome.