June 12, 2018 – Futuristic gene-editing technology may cause cancer
Two studies have suggested that successful gene editing with CRISPR Cas9 (to cure genetic diseases) may be associated with an increased risk of developing cancer. This is because the edit may indicate that the modified cell lacks the cancer-suppressing protein, p53. P53 acts as the body’s cellular “first aid” kit and also causes some CRISPR edits to fail. When CRISPR makes a cut in the DNA of a cell (to remove deleterious mutations), p53 can be triggered to repair the broken cell or make it self-destruct. When these incidences do not occur and genes are successfully edited, this suggests that p53 is not functioning properly in those edited cells. Since dysfunctional P53 causes significant stomach cancer risk, there are concerns that transplanting CRISPR edited cells into the body could lead to cancer. Other scientists argue that there’s no clear connection between CRISPR editing and potential cancer. For that to be true, CRISPR-edited cells intended for transplantation have to be permanently lacking in p53, which has not been established. Also, these study results are based on cultured cells, which may act differently when transplanted back into the human body.
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