What is DNA? We hear about DNA all the time but what really is it? DNA is the hereditary material in organisms. It is very important because it contains the instructions to make the proteins and molecules essential for growth, reproduction, and health. Each segment of DNA codes for something new and different. What if there is a segment that needs to be edited because it is damaged and it causes complications? This is when the new technological advancement of CRISPR comes into play. CRISPR also known as CRISPR Cas9 is used to edit genomes in DNA. It allows scientists to edit and modify certain parts of the gene to help cure genetic diseases. The Cas9 protein is an enzyme that cuts DNA strands and acts as scissors for DNA. Here is a short video overview and summary of what CRISPR can do. Using CRISPR Cas9, we can modify genes to help cancer and help cure other diseases. Let’s look at some of the possibilities with CRISPR.
CRISPR can do many things such as cure disease and deactivate a certain strand of the genome. Scientists are trying to use the revolutionary CRISPR process to help cure certain types of cancer. In one trial, scientists have edited the T-cells in a patient with refractory cancer – a cancer that fails to respond to treatment. They took out three genes to improve antitumor immunity and added one new gene that recognizes cancers which should help the body fight the cancer. By being able to recognize the tumors, this will allow the modified, more persistent T-cells to fight and kill the cancer that failed to respond to all other treatments. The results from this trial are promising. For the phase 1 trial, the edited T-cells survived for 9 months without any issues. Results also showed that at the sites of the tumor in the patients, the area was swarmed with T-cells showing some success in the trial. Although the T-cells only last 9 months, this is a big step in the right direction for cancer treatment, especially for those that don’t respond to other treatments.
Another way we can use CRISPR is to treat genetic disorders. It can be used to treat genetic disorders such as sickle cell-anemia and cystic fibrosis. CRISPR can be used to fix the mutated section with a functional gene that will cure them of their disease. CRISPR can also be used to edit DNA in certain areas to get desirable and wanted traits. CRISPR can help with endless diseases and genetic issues such as blindness and other recessive trait diseases because all it would take is to cut that stand out and replace it with a functioning one. CRISPR can also be used to genetically modify embryos that develop into human beings. Such new findings bring up the case of ethicality. One doctor in China did so and was actually sent to prison because it was unethical. There are some great risks with procedure as sometimes the edit may be done in the wrong genetic strand or the procedure causes a mosaicism, but with the promising results of the trials I think we can eliminate some of these large risks. With further research, testing, and trials we can use CRISPR to make some revolutionary changes in the way we treat patients with cancer and hereditary genetic disorders.