CRISPR alert: gene-edited cells could trigger cancer
Published: October 4, 2018
Category: Extreme Genetic Engineering, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
Two recent studies found that cells altered using the gene technology CRISPR-Cas9 for disease treatment could seed tumors leading to cancer. Developers of CRISPR-based therapies are taking a hard look at the research from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and Novartis, published in Nature Medicine.
These new data raise concerns that a potentially “fatal flaw” in some CRISPR applications may have “been missed.”
Sam Kulkarni, CEO of CRISPR Therapeutics, considers the results “plausible” while other scientists—Eric Sontheimer of University of Massachusetts Medical School, for one—don’t consider them a “deal-breaker.”
CRISPR edits genomes by cutting out pieces of diseased DNA or cutting out DNA and replacing it with healthy nucleotides. Cutting DNA activates a gene, p53, which either mends the tear or causes the cell to self-destruct. Cells surviving these edits (CRISPR being successful) have a dysfunctional p53, lacking the fix-it-or-kill-it mechanism. And p53 dysfunction—mutations—is implicated widely in ovarian, colorectal, lung, and many other cancers.
The Novartis study cites the importance of ensuring that edited cells have a functional p53 before and after engineering.
Why hasn’t the connection been found earlier? The research serves to remind that “genome editing isn’t magic.”
Source: Sustainable Pulse
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