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How To Beat Cancer? CRISPR Stares Into Its Eyes Then Snips Out The Bad Genes

5 May 2017, 6:41 am EDT By Andrew Norman Tech Times
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Scientists used the CRISPR tool to replace cancer-causing fusion genes with cancer-fighting genes in mice. This experiment could pave the way for the gene-editing tool to be used against cancer in the future.  ( Dan Kitwood | Getty Images )

Researchers may have discovered an effective cancer treatment using CRISPR, as experiments performed show promising results. In 2016, a group of scientists in Germany discovered a way to edit the cancer mutation from the body using the technology.

In November 2016, China became the first country in world to use the CRISPR technology on humans and scientists believe that the possibilities of using it are limitless. However, most people do not even know what CRISPR is and why it is revolutionizing the scientific world.

What Is CRISPR?

CRISPR-Cas9 is basically a gene-editing tool that can alter parts of the genome. It does so by removing, adding, or even changing sections of the DNA sequence. It is currently the simplest, most versatile, and precise method of genetic manipulation and, therefore, is creating a buzz in the science world.

Although, it is a new form of technology and scientists are mainly trying to determine its uses through animal trials, it could someday provide a miracle cure for genetic diseases, which are presently almost impossible to treat.

CRISPR's Fight Against Cancer

Researchers from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted an experiment where they employed the CRISPR tool against cancer-causing fusion genes in the body of mice. The researchers transplanted human liver and prostate cancer cells into the mice. Following this, they started treating the mice with CRISPR.

The mice were divided into two groups — the control and experimental groups. The control group was provided treatment for the fusion genes, which the mice did not possess in their bodies. However, the treatment failed and led to the growth of tumors in mice, which were roughly 40 times bigger. The cancer in these control mice also spread to the other parts of their body and all of them perished within the duration of the study.

The experimental group, on the other hand, was presented with treatment for the fusion genes that were present in their bodies. In these mice, researchers noted that tumors decreased by 30 percent in size and the cancer did not spread. Unlike the control group, all the mice in this group survived which indicated that the treatment was effective.

What Could This Lead To?

Researchers used the CRISPR tool to replace the fusion genes present in the mice with healthy cancer-fighting genes. These genes only harm the cancer cells and do not affect the healthy cells adversely. This is something which traditional chemotherapy can never achieve.

"It is really exciting because it lays the groundwork for what could become a totally new approach to treating cancer," study lead Jian-Hua Luo remarked.

However, the promising results do not imply that scientists are going to start human trials anytime soon. Before the treatment can be tested on humans, researchers are looking to perfect a method which would completely remove the cancer and not just put it into remission.

The results of the study have been published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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