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The next trick for CRISPR is gene-editing pain away

hot coals

A family of street performers could walk on coals. Here’s how the secret of why they felt no pain could benefit others, reports Antonio Regalado.

A rare case: A young Pakistani street performer died in 2006 after someone dared him to jump from a roof. He did it, knowing it wouldn’t hurt. He had a rare genetic disorder which meant he never felt pain. He had a mutation which disabled the SCN9A gene, which pays a key part in transmitting pain to the brain.

Now: A new approach to pain eradication mimics the mutation and has been demonstrated in lab mice. Startup Navega Therapeutics plans to develop a CRISPR treatment to block severe pain caused by diabetes, cancer, or car accidents, without the addictive effects of opioids. The first tests of CRISPR gene therapies on humans began only recently, and it’s a huge gamble. Removing people’s ability to feel pain comes with some big risks.

Super soldiers: The studies are likely to be closely followed by the military. In 2017 Vladmit Putin said genetic engineering could create soldiers who feel no pain or fear, which could be “scarier than a nuclear bomb.” Read the full story here.

Posted Friday, September 6, 2019