(Mirror Daily, United States) – Two new studies have found that a groundbreaking DNA-editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9 could boost cancer risk in patients that use the tech to get rid of hereditary diseases.
Researchers explained that the CRISPR tool can become cancer-causing when it is used to replace unhealthy genes with healthier ones.
Two separate studies, one funded by Novartis and another one conducted by Sweden-based Karolinska Institutets, show that, during a CRISPR-Cas9 edit, the tweaked cells no longer have a cancer-suppressing protein dubbed p53, which can boost cancer risk.
P53 protects cells from cancer and lowers gene-editing methods’ success rate. The protein is essential in keeping cancer at bay, but when researchers use CRISPR-Cas9 to get rid of some inherited conditions, p53 can make cells self-destruct.
Karolinska Institutet researchers raised concerns about the safety of such gene-editing tools as the methods seem to prevent p53 from working properly.
“If transplanted into a patient, as in gene therapy for inherited diseases, such cells could give rise to cancer,
lead researcher Emma Haapaniemi of the Karolinska Institutet warned.
The DNA Editing Tool Has Many Risks
A dysfunctional p53 can dramatically increase cancer risk. The protein’s mutations are behind 43% of colon cancers, 50% of ovarian cancers, and multiple cases of stomach, liver, lung, pancreatic, and breast cancers.
Bernhard Schmierer of the Karolinska Institutet praised the CRISPR-Cas9 tool for its “staggering therapeutic potential.” But he added that the method does have its risks just like drugs have side-effects.
Researchers plan to further study the mechanism that prompts a p53 mutation when gene-editing is applied.
CRISPR-Cas9 can correct genetic mutations that can lead to diseases. The tool can do this by either gene replacement or gene disruption. When the gene is disrupted, p53 seems to not be affected.
Image Source: MaxPixel
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