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"Never Imagined"

The University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna tells Newsweek that it's been five years since she and her colleagues reported in Science on the CRISPR gene-editing system, but that she "never imagined back then that I would be reading this headline in the New York Times this week."

Doudna is referring to work out of Shoukhrat Mitalipov's lab at Oregon State Health and Science University. He and his colleagues reported in Nature last week that they'd used to the tool to correct a heart disease-linked mutation in viable human embryos — work the Times called "a major milestone."

Doudna tells Newsweek that the study isn't a complete surprise as there's been interest in using gene editing to cure genetic disease. "What's really interesting here is that the study was conducted in a way that could create a path to the clinic, and to establish a procedure for doing gene editing that would be feasible in these embryos," she adds. "The researchers largely achieved that."

She notes, though, that that isn't the only potential application of the technology. Doudna herself is looking into using it to treat neurological diseases. She adds that the vast majority of researchers are focusing on making non-heritable changes. "They are trying to make changes to DNA that would impact a patient in their lifetime and have a positive effect," she adds.