CRISPR to the Rescue
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CRISPRGenetic therapies present exciting possibilities and one place that’s now leading with cutting edge experiments is China. Today only ten human clinical trials in the world use a technology called CRISPR which makes gene editing possible, and nine of those trials are in China. CRISPR is short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.

In bacteria, where CRISPR was first described and characterized, it represents a primitive immune system that protects bacteria from invading viruses. Some clever biologists recognized that the CRISPR system could be used for genome editing. This means we have a powerful tool to correct genetic mistakes and to alter the properties of human cells – like fighting cancer.

In two thousand fifteen, Chinese scientists used CRISPR to edit the genome of a human embryo. This sent shock waves around the scientific world and now other Chinese scientists are altering human immune cells to enhance their cancer fighting properties.

One approach alters a gene for a protein called programmed cell death protein one. Scientists have used CRISPR to knock out the protein in immune cells. By doing so, cancer cells can’t activate this protein and cause the immune cell to self-destruct. This allows immune cells to do their job of killing cancer cells. Variations of this approach are also being used to attack prostate, lung, and bladder cancers. Others are replacing T-cell receptors with ones that destroy leukemia cells.

Even though some fear CRISPR could be used to create “customized” super babies, it can become a powerful weapon against our most stubborn diseases.

For more information…

China Is Surging Ahead In The Race To Beat Cancer With CRISPR
China’s second human CRISPR trial is now underway. Soon, the U.S. will be conducting its first trial. The first one to try may not be as relevant; who succeeds will be what matters....

Doctors In China Lead Race To Treat Cancer By Editing Genes
Shaorong Deng has advanced cancer of the esophagus, a common form of cancer in China. He went through radiation and chemotherapy, but the cancer kept spreading. Now he's back at the hospital to get an experimental treatment. It involves using cells from his own immune system, known as T cells, after they have been taken out of his body and genetically altered in a lab by the gene-editing tool called CRISPR...