The ability to achieve site-specific manipulation of the mammalian genome has widespread implications for basic and applied research. Gene targeting is a process in which a DNA molecule introduced into a cell replaces the corresponding chromosomal segment by homologous recombination, and thus presents a precise way to manipulate the genome. In the past, the application of gene targeting to mammalian cells has been limited by its low efficiency. Zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) show promise in improving the efficiency of gene targeting by introducing DNA double-strand breaks in target genes, which then stimulate the cell's endogenous homologous recombination machinery. Recent results have shown that ZFNs can be used to create targeting frequencies of up to 20% in a human disease-causing gene. Future work will be needed to translate these in vitro findings to in vivo applications and to determine whether zinc finger nucleases create undesired genomic instability.