CRISPR gene editing technology shows great potential in changing the world – but, it’s just in its infancy for now. Designed to repair errors in your genes, this innovative technique could hold the answer to curing cancer, dementia, and many other serious conditions.
Although the technology is solid, researchers still have to apply it to real-world problems and see if it’s a viable solution. With small trials just beginning, it’ll be a while before patients can benefit from the innovations. For now, the world holds out hope for this state-of-the-art medical approach to change the course of treatment forevermore.
Wondering just what CRISPR gene editing really is – and what it can possibly treat? Here’s a look at all you need to know about CRISPR technology.
What is CRISPR Gene Editing?
CRISPR is a fast and accurate gene-editing technique designed to effectively target specific viruses and destroy their DNA. After making that discovery, researchers pushed the technology to the next level to tackle disease processes. Instead of destroying the DNA though, the targeting technology alters the function of the genes causing the disease. In effect, they use CRISPR to remove flaws in DNA and stop the disease in its tracks.
Although CRISPR gene editing techniques might sound complex, researchers have managed to make the process rather straightforward. The treatment starts with the collection of cells from the patient. Then, the cells go to the lab where they are altered using CRISPR technology. The altered cells are allowed to grow for several weeks, and then get injected back into the patient.
Once the cells start cycling through the body, they zero in on the target genes and make the programmed changes. The scientific theory checks out but putting this process into practice is easier said than done. For now, scientists must study the possibilities and put their ideas to the test through ongoing research before moving onto the trial stage.
How CRISPR Technology Can Treat Cancer
Cancer is a great candidate for CRISPR gene editing treatments. Although there are more than 100 types of cancer, they all link back to problems with the function or makeup of the genes. Researchers will need to go through each type of cancer one by one to see if the technology has the potential to cure each disease.
Currently, their research centers around using an immunotherapy approach to either attack the cancer or turn off its defenses. When attacking the cancer, the CRISPR tech creates super powerful T cells designed to track down and kill cancer cells. With the current technology, these cells can eliminate the targeted cells and other cancer cells in their midst.
The CRISPR tech used to turn off the cancer’s defenses is a bit more complex. This approach focuses on turning off the gene responsible for creating a masking protein, PD-1, which tell the T-cells to go on their merry way. Normally found in healthy cells, the PD-1 protein can show up in cancer cells as they try to evade treatment. By turning it off using CRISPR, the T cells can resume attacking the cancer cells and eliminating them from the body.
Although the initial results are promising, researchers are not done trying to figure out how to apply this technology in the treatment of cancer. On top of that, they’re already moving ahead with trials for CRISPR-derived treatments for cancer, including lymphoma.
Additional CRISPR Gene Editing Treatments
Cancer is not the only serious disease targeted by researchers exploring the effectiveness of CRISPR gene editing treatments. Trials for sickle cell disease and inherited blindness are in the works at the moment as well.
Other diseases on their radar include:
- Muscular dystrophy
- High cholesterol
- Huntington’s disease
More will come in the years to follow as researchers work out how to best use the technology to edit genes.
For now, they will keep their focus on diseases caused by single-gene errors. As they make it to the trial stage, their efforts will better show both the effectiveness of the treatments and all their potential side effects.