- CRISPR is an innovative technology that won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
- The first clinical trial of CRISPR took place in the same year at the University of Pennsylvania.
- In recent research, the influence of CRISPR on T-cells causes a loss of genetic material that activates cancer.
For the improvement of the gene editing method, it is important to learn the errors in it. One such side effect of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is that it might lead to cancer over time. In a recent study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, researchers from Tel Aviv University informed that CRISPR may not always be safe for rearranging pieces of DNA.
If you don’t know about CRISPR then we will explain its basic meaning. With the use of the genome-editing technique CRISPR, researchers may change any genetic material’s structure and function. There are a number of methods for editing the genome, with CRISPR-Cas9 gene scissors (CRISPR-associated protein 9) being the most popular one. It has many uses and promises for the treatment of various illnesses and infections by diseases.
How Can A Life-Saving Technology Become A Risk To Lives?
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to CRISPR technology, which was created about ten years ago. The first CRISPR clinical study that the FDA approved was conducted on T-cells at the University of Pennsylvania during the same year, which also saw the beginning of the first CRISPR clinical trial.
The innovative study looks into how CRISPR affects T-cells. It lists the risk related to the new technology, which has been used to cure genetic disorders, liver and intestinal problems, and cancer. In the end, a sizable portion of the treated cell—up to 10%—had genetic material lost, according to the researchers. Such a loss might lead to the genome being unstable, which might also enable cancer some time.
“Our intention in this study was to shed light on potential risks in using CRISPR therapeutics. We did this even though we are aware of the technology’s substantial advantages,” said Dr. Adi Barzel and his doctoral student Alessio Nahmad.
How CRISPR Changed Cancer Research?
Scientists kept looking for a simple technique to reverse these changes by modifying DNA since they learned that mutations in DNA are the root cause of cancer. Despite the fact that a number of gene editing techniques have been created over the years, none have actually matched the criteria for a quick, simple, and affordable technology.
But in 2013, a number of studies revealed that a gene-editing tool known as CRISPR could modify the DNA of human cells like a finely tuned and simple pair of scissors.
The new technology has greatly changed what is possible and what is impossible in the scientific community. Cancer researchers came to the possibility to use CRISPR as soon as it appeared on the shelves and freezers of labs all around the world.
“CRISPR is becoming a mainstream methodology used in many cancer biology studies because of the convenience of the technique,” said Jerry Li, M.D., Ph.D., of NCI’s Division of Cancer Biology.
Understand The Working Of CRISPR
CRISPR was inspired by nature, just like many other discoveries in science and health. In this situation, the concept was taken from a defense mechanism present in some creatures, like bacteria.
These microorganisms seize bits of a person’s DNA and store them away as segments known as CRISPRs, to defend themselves from viruses. Those DNA fragments (converted into brief RNA fragments) help an enzyme called “Cas” in locating and cutting up the DNA of that person if the same germ tries another attack.
When this defense mechanism was found, researchers realized it could be used as a flexible gene-editing tool. Multiple groups were able to successfully adapt the method to alter nearly any region of DNA within a few years, initially in the cells of other bacteria and later in human cells.
Two key components make up the CRISPR tool in the lab: a guide RNA and a DNA-cutting enzyme, most frequently Cas9. The guide RNA is created by scientists to mirror the DNA of the gene to be changed (called the target). In keeping with its name, the guide RNA teams up with Cas and directs Cas to the target. The DNA of the target gene is cut by Cas when the guide RNA and DNA match.
Depending on the CRISPR tool being used, the next step changes. In rare situations, the DNA of the target gene is damaged during a repair, making the gene inactive. Other CRISPR variants allow for more precise gene editing, such as the addition of a new DNA segment or the modification of a single DNA letter.
Additionally, researchers have utilized CRISPR to find particular targets like RNA from cancer cells and DNA from viruses that cause cancer. CRISPR has also been used as an experimental test to find Coronavirus during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Alert For CRISPR Therapeutics By Researchers
The researchers advise that extra care must be used while using CRISPR therapies. They recommend additional study into two potential remedies: avoiding the formation of damaged cells or identifying and removing them before the patient receives the material.
“In fact, in other studies, we have developed CRISPR-based treatments, including a promising therapy for AIDS. We have even established two companies – one using CRISPR and the other deliberately avoiding this technology. In other words, we advance this highly effective technology while at the same time cautioning against its potential dangers. This may seem like a contradiction, but as scientists, we are quite proud of our approach because we believe that this is the very essence of science: We don’t ‘choose sides,’ we examine all aspects of an issue, both positive and negative, and look for answers,” Dr. Barzel and his Ph.D. student Alessio Nahmad concluded.
The experts still do not disagree to point out the serious disadvantages of CRISPR.