This Huntington's disease trial shows how promising gene editing may be.

Huntington's disease is caused by a single mutation in someone's DNA.

A normal protein, huntingtin, becomes warped and toxic. Over time, the toxic protein builds up, killing a person's brain cells and slowly robbing them of cognitive and motor control.

It affects about 30,000 Americans, often shows up later in life, and is fatal. Because it's a genetic disease, it can be passed down through families. It's cruel, unfair, and nobody deserves it.


But what if we could just zap away that one fatal mutation?

That's exactly what a team of scientists from Emory University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences just tried — zapping that mutation right out of the DNA. And it looks like it could work.

Working with sick mice in a lab, the scientists used a gene-editing technique colloquially known as CRISPR. On June 19, 2017, the scientists reported that once injected and inside the brain cells, the CRISPR system could read the mice's DNA, find the huntingtin gene, and snip it apart. This effectively silenced the gene, cutting off the "flow" of the toxic proteins.

When the scientists checked on the mice a few weeks later, the toxic proteins had nearly disappeared from their cells. The scientists reported that the sick mice also regained some, but not all, of their motor control.

This isn't the first trial to use gene editing on Huntington's, but it does represent a new technique.

There's currently no cure for this awful disease, but this kind of research could provide a path to one in the future.

Gene editing is still pretty new; we need to learn more about whether CRISPR is completely safe, for instance, or what the long-term effects of silencing that particular gene would be.

But if we look at the history of humanity, we've conquered many horrible diseases. We've beaten back polio and smallpox and are even tackling childhood cancer. It's not far-fetched to think that, one day, we may be able to add Huntington's to the list.

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Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

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The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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