CRISPR technology is used to treat certain cancers as well as genetic diseases
A study conducted by Tel Aviv University sheds light on the risks of using the Nobel Prize-winning CRISPR DNA modification method, proving it has the potential to damage the genome.
The researchers thus detected a loss of genetic material of up to 10% of the white blood cells treated, which could lead to a destabilization of the genome leading itself to the appearance of cancer.
“Such chromosomal disruptions can destabilize the genome, and we often see this in cancer cells. Thus, CRISPR therapeutics, in which DNA is intentionally cleaved as a means of treating cancer, could, in extreme scenarios, promote makes malignant tumours,” explained Dr. Uri Ben-David and his research assistant Eli Reuveni, who are members of the team conducting the study.
CRISPR is a revolutionary technology developed nearly a decade ago to modify DNA by cleaving its sequences at certain points, removing “unwanted segments” or repairing them. The method proves to be effective in the treatment of many diseases. This so-called “genetic scissors” therapy is already used to treat cancer, liver and intestinal diseases as well as genetic syndromes.
The Tel Aviv University scientists say their intention is to uncover the potential risks of the CRISPR method, despite the technology’s “substantial benefits”.
“We have developed CRISPR-based treatments ourselves, including a promising therapy for AIDS. In other words, we are advancing this highly effective technology, while warning of its potential dangers,” says Dr. Adi Barzel, who led the study, adding that the essence of science is not to “choose sides” but to look at both positives and negatives.