Many scientists are supporting the idea that in order to prevent cancer people should start at the root of the problem – their genes. Many studies have shown that your genes can be edited and cancer genes in particular should be rectified. But is this really a good idea?
CBS news reports on the study and the ongoing research.
The revolutionary technology responsible for gene editing is called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), it can edit genetic mistakes. It is said to be able to rid the body of HIV, cystic fibrosis and even cancer to name a few.
But many scientists are now putting the new technology under scrutiny.
Even Jennifer Doudna, the professor who came up with the CRISPR concept has concerns.
She said CRISPR is like a film editor.
Doudna said, “Think about a film strip. You see a particular segment of the film that you want to replace. And if you had a film splicer, you would go in and literally cut it out and piece it back together -- maybe with a new clip.”
She then spoke about how she has been able to do this with real life with genetic code. CRISPR allows scientists to snip out a mutation and prevent a disease. They replace it with something that corrects the mutation.
The technology that CRISPR has forwarded created much excitement because it's fast, cheap and can cut and paste genetic code with great meticulousness. Before this technology, it used to take months or years to alter a single gene, but now, that task can be accomplished in a matter of days.
Doudna said, “What I'm excited about there is the potential to use the CRISPR technology to program a patient's immune system to recognize tumor cells in a precise way.” She also stated that the technology could help cure any disease that has a genetic basis.
Doudna’s concerns lay in CRISPR being used for embryo editing, which would result in designer babies; this could harm the way human evolution has existed until now. Doudna has been meeting with officials in Washington D.C. to call on the importance of setting ethical boundaries to prevent this from happening. These talks are also happening on an international level.
Doudna also has patent issues going on over the technology with a doctor from MIT.
When asked to comment on this issue, Doudna said her fight with the other side is nonexistent. She leaves that to the guys who make the billions. Doudna said her only concern is making sure people have the technology available to them to help cure these genetic diseases.
CRISPR has made Professor Doudna a scientific celebrity but she remains humble and focused on her objective. TIME magazine called her one of the 100 most influential people. She said, “That came...at me out of the blue, yeah.” CRISPR is expected to revolutionize genetic disease treatment for the twenty first century.