The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique allows scientists to make changes to DNA more exactly than ever before. This article is about CRISPR technologyhow it works and why its potential use for cancer treatment excites researchers around the globe.
What is CRISPR?
The acronym stands for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats,” which refers to the series of DNA sequences that make up genes and tell cells where and when to copy (replicate) themselves.
Microbes develop this genetic structure as an immune defense against viruses. However, scientists can even use them as molecular scissors to guide RNA molecules so that natural enzymes cut certain sections of DNA, enabling or disabling certain genes.
How Does CRISPR Work in Gene Editing?
CRISPR is not the only gene editing technique, but it has revolutionized the field. It consists of two components: “guide RNA” which tells CRISPR-related enzymes where to ‘cut’, and Cas9 or Cpf1, which are enzymes that cut DNA at specific points. You can easily program this to target the right location in the genome.
Compared to other techniques, CRISPR is comparatively inexpensive to use, easy to design, and results are reliable. This technology has many applications in biology and medication, including agricultural biotechnology, to develop better plant and animal models of human disease.
During its research on improving crops, DuPont discovered that the CRISPR-Cas9 system could be used as a new tool to make better soybeans. The technology enables gene targeting and precision breeding, meaning that DuPont can now more efficiently create plants with beneficial traits such as increased yields or increased nutrient content.
Why Does CRISPR Technology Have Promising Potential for Cancer Treatment?
It is extremely important to understand how tumors acquire resistance to traditional therapies such as chemotherapy or targeted drug therapy (biologics) in order to develop effective cancer treatments. In addition, most standard chemotherapy treatments damage healthy cells in addition to killing cancer cells – this is detrimental to the patient’s quality of life and overall health.
A significant challenge in treating cancer with biologics is that many of these drugs are large proteins, which can be challenging to deliver to specific tissues in the body.
One promising approach involves modifying biologic agents with cell-targeting antibodies to accumulate at tumor sites rather than throughout the body. These modified molecules are known as ‘armed’ or ‘armoured’ biologics.
CRISPR offers a way to quickly and exactly inactivate genes involved in resistance or sensitization pathways, which will allow armed biologics to maintain their therapeutic activity when they encounter mutations that would otherwise reduce their efficacy.
This capability could help increase response rates in patients treated with armed biologics, including those who have developed resistance after initially responding to treatment.
What are the Possible Applications of CRISPR Technology for Cancer Treatment?
In addition to armed biology, several other applications of the technology could benefit cancer patients.
In many cases, researchers can use CRISPR as a tool to more exactly control how much gene expression is affected by mutations or deletions – this makes it easier for scientists to identify which cells and molecules contribute to certain traits such as drug resistance.
For example, researchers can use CRISPR to develop cancer models and preclinical testing platforms that more precisely reflect what happens in humans than current methods.
This has important implications for those working on next-generation immunotherapies. It is feasible to quickly identify resistant mutations and then combat them by implementing an artificial deadly approach using CRISPR technology.
This could lead to the development of cancer treatments that are more effective and have fewer side effects – a very important goal for many researchers in this field.
Why Did Chinese Researchers Lose Patent Scramble over CRISPR?
Feng Zhang has been granted a patent with regard to CRISPR for use in eukaryotic cells (cells with a nucleus). For those who do not know:
A researcher at UCB named Jennifer Doudna first discovered how Cas9 could be used to edit genomes. Still, the team applied their work to prokaryotic (bacterial) cells. Zhang was the first to use CRISPR in eukaryotic cells.
Additionally, his work helps make it easier for scientists to carry out CRISPR editing, which is widely praised by independent researchers.
Based on this patent, the Broad Institute claims its technology is required for virtually all gene editing in plants and animals – a position other establishments have contested in court.
Specifically, the US federal appeals court in Washington upheld a ruling by an administrative patent judge who ruled that none of Broad’s patent claims are eligible for protection.
This technology can be very effective in treating several diseases and conditions and is a major success for the world of technology and science.