Treatment using the CRISPR gene editing tool is getting close to reality. News about CRISPR, a gene editing technique has been common of late, whether bad or good. For instance, a Chinese biotechnologist recently stunned the world after creating two genetically modified twins using this method.
For a long time, scientists have always hoped to make this genome editing technology a reality; a development that will help cure many diseases.
Another study which is looking into using CRISPR method to treat cancer is also underway at Pennsylvania University. Two patients have already been treated where one had sarcoma and the other, myeloma.
According to Fyodor Urnov, a gene-editing scientist from the California University, “2019 is the year when training wheels come off and the world gets to see what CRISPR can really do for the world in the most positive sense.”
Below are some highlights as regards to CRISPR research.
What Exactly Is CRISPR Gene Editing?
CRISPR is a new method of editing a human DNA that is easier and more effective compared to traditional genetic engineering methods. For instance, scientists can repair genetic defects using this gene-editing tool.
Unlike past methods of genetic modification, this one will make direct changes to an individual’s DNA, using targeted molecular tools.
Is This The Same Method Used By Biotechnologists In China That Attracted Many Critics?
The main difference between what the scientist, He Jiankui, did is that he used this method to create genetically modified babies, which raised fears of producing a new species of the human race. This means that the changes would be passed down to future offspring. It has eventually led to calls for a moratorium on the same.
What’s Taking Place With The Current Gene Editing Trials?
Currently, this method is very close to materializing. Until now, only a few trials have been done to treat cancer in China.
Another clinical trial for cancer treatment is also taking place at Pennsylvania University. The trials entail extracting immune system cells and editing them in the lab, then putting them back in the body with hopes that they will eliminate the cancer cells.
According to a university spokesman, “Findings from this research study will be shared at an appropriate time via medical meeting presentation or peer-reviewed publication.”
Are There Test Treatments For Other Diseases?
There are two more trials that are intended to treat inherited blood disorders, namely, sickle cells disease and the other for beta thalassemia. These trials are being conducted in Boston, sponsored by the Cambridge CRISPR Therapeutics.
What Are Some of The Issues Regarding This Gene Editing Method?
The main concerns are that something could go wrong, which normally happens when new scientific trials are taking place. Another concern is that gene-editing could go awry, leading to unintended DNA changes and causing health issues.
At present, all the studies underway are mainly aimed at testing whether the method is safe. As such, it might be long before an actual CRISPR method is widely available.