Tuesday, November 22, 2016
CRISPR gene-editing tested in a person for the first time
Hoping to use unconventional means to fight cancer, a Chinese group of oncologists began working with the CRISPR-Cas9 technique to remove a specific gene that encodes for a protein that slows a cell's immune response. This technique "glues" together a DNA-cutting enzyme with a molecular guide in order to cut out a specified sequence of DNA. After culturing the modified cells, they were then injected into ten patients, hoping that the modified cells begin attacking the cancer cells in the host.
This new insight into future cancer fighting techniques is beginning to spark a heated race between the United States and China. A supposed US trial for using CRISPR to remove three genes in hosts cells is expected to begin in 2017, setting fire to the race. The hope is that by targeting specific genes that help cancer cells proliferate and metastasize, the existing cancer cells will either die off in time or be killed by the immune system. Unfortunately, the trial is still ongoing, so the effects of CRISPR on cancer cells remains unknown.