Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For the first time, scientists have used the gene-editing technique CRISPR inside the body of an adult patient, in an effort to cure congenital blindness.

Why it matters: CRISPR has already been used to edit cells outside a human body, which are then reinfused into the patient. But the new study could open the door to using gene editing to treat incurable conditions that involve cells that can't be removed from the body, like Huntington's disease and dementia.

Details: The research was sponsored by the biotech companies Editas Medicine of Cambridge, Massachusetts and Allergan of Dublin, and was carried out at Oregon Health and Science University.

  • Scientists led by Eric Pierce of Harvard Medical School injected microscopic droplets carrying a benign virus into the eye of a nearly blind patient suffering from the genetic disorder Leber congenital amaurosis.
  • The virus had been engineered to instruct the cells to create CRISPR machinery. The hope is that CRISPR will edit out the genetic defects that cause blindness, restoring at least some vision.
  • "We literally have the potential to take people who are essentially blind and make them see," Charles Albright, chief scientific officer at Editas, told the AP.

Doctors had tried using in-the-body editing with a different tool called zinc fingers in 2017. But CRISPR is easier to employ and more effective at making precise gene edits.

  • "It gives us hope that we could extend that to lots of other diseases — if it works and if it's safe," National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins told NPR.

Go deeper: Genetic technology's double-edged sword

Go deeper

Democrats' mail voting pivot

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats spent the early months of the coronavirus pandemic urging their base to vote absentee. But as threats of U.S. Postal Service delays, Team Trump litigation and higher ballot rejection rates become clearer, many are pivoting to promote more in-person voting as well.

Why it matters: Democrats are exponentially more likely to vote by mail than Republicans this year — and if enough mail-in ballots are lost, rejected on a technicality or undercounted, it could change the outcome of the presidential election or other key races.

New interactive tool shows Biden's mail voting danger

Data: SurveyMonkey; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Voters who disapprove of President Trump most strongly are by far the most likely to vote by mail in the presidential election, according to an Axios analysis of exclusive data from SurveyMonkey and Tableau.

Why it matters: The new data shows just how strongly the mail-in vote is likely to favor Joe Biden — with potentially enormous implications in the swing states due to the greater risk of rejection with mail ballots.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
46 mins ago - Health

Reopening the ACA debate is politically risky for GOP

Data: Kaiser Family Foundation, The Cook Political Report; Notes: Those losing insurance includes 2020 ACA marketplace enrollment and 2019 Medicaid expansion enrollment among newly-eligible enrollees. Close races are those defined as "Toss up" or "Lean R/D"; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The sudden uncertainty surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act could be an enormous political liability for Republicans in key states come November.

Between the lines: Millions of people in crucial presidential and Senate battlegrounds would lose their health care coverage if the Supreme Court strikes down the law, as the Trump administration is urging it to.

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