An infant in London with an aggressive leukemia has been given TALEN-edited immune cells, a treatment that appears to have put her disease into remission, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The infant, Layla, had relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia against which conventional treatment was ineffective. The Journal notes that an experimental treatment called CAR in which patients' T cells are removed and engineered to better find and eliminate leukemia cells had shown some success in trials. But Layla didn't have enough of her own immune cells to use.
Instead, clinicians from Great Ormond Street and University College London researchers along with Cellectis turned to T cells from a healthy donor that they edited using TALENs so they didn't attack the girl's body as well as so they wouldn't be attacked by the leukemia drugs then given to the girl.
Weeks after the cells were given to Layla, the Journal reports, she went into remission.
"It's very exciting but it is early days," Matt Kaiser from the UK charity Bloodwise says
Still, the Journal notes that a number of companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novartis, and Sangamo BioSciences and academic researchers are exploring gene editing, including using zinc finger nucleases and CRISPR.