The new technology makes gene editing faster, cheaper, and easier than ever before. Here’s how.

Here’s Sharon Begley, reporting for Stat:

Karolinska’s Haapaniemi said the effect shows up in large-scale experiments like hers and Novartis’ “but can be missed in small-scale studies where people only focus on editing one gene in one cell type.” In speaking to other scientists, she said, “it seems that other teams have noticed the effect of p53 on editing,” but have not highlighted it.

Begley continues:

As for why no one has reported CRISPR’d mice getting cancer, Haapaniemi said, “This is a good question.” One reason might be that “laboratory mice are killed early,” perhaps leaving too little time for them to develop cancer.

The good news is that not all gene-editing therapies trigger p53 and cause it to undo the therapy. When CRISPR is used only to remove problematic DNA rather than insert new code, the watchdog appears to stay quiet. Ditto when only individual letters of DNA code are changed without cutting both strands of DNA. These more limited techniques underpin treatments for a variety of genetic conditions, from sickle-cell anemia to cystic fibrosis.

A revolution in gene editing enables scientists to create and edit DNA like never before.

Still, numerous promising CRISPR gene therapies waiting in the wings may have to be sidelined until a solution to the p53 problem can be found. These two studies also underscore just how far scientists are from fully understanding the tool that had promised to give us control of our own genetic destiny.

Image credit: NIH

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