China Will Soon Begin Its Pioneering Attempt To Re-Write The Human DNA

Zarmeen Shahzad
Posted Jul 26, 2016
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As science progresses, changing and tweaking in the existing forms is something all researchers and scientists look forward to. Tweaking gene codes is one of the most popular things among scientists these days. Likewise, Chinese researches will be editing the human DNA next month using CRISPR/Cas-9tool. This machine is more commonly known as the CRISPR.

China to use the revolutionary tool CRISPR to edit human DNA in an attempt to cure Cancer

These scientists have used this machine previously on non-viable human embryos but without much luck. They are fast progressing and now are planning to edit adult DNA. This DNA will be extracted from the lungs of cancer patients who have stopped responding to all cancer treatments. But why are they doing this? Well the answer is fairly simple; to find a cure to this disease. If this experiment is successful it may lead to successful treatments. The CRISPR treatments have shown successful results in the treatment of genetic diseases in animals. The researchers believe that it’s time to take a step forward.

This trial run will start next month in the Sichuan University’s West China Hospital. According to what Nature states the experiment will only be conducted on patients who are out of options and have stopped responding to other treatments. We have seen over the years that there are a lot of ethical concerns about editing the genetic makeup of humans. Humans may want to alter their gametes and may want ‘designer’ or ‘customized’ babies. Scary thought right? Imagine a world where parents get to choose what traits they want in their children. Not a very interesting thought, is it?

The researchers, however, are claiming that no such thing will take place as there a lot of ethical issues involved. This study will only alter patient’s T-cells in the immune system. The number of patients who will be tested is not yet disclosed.

Molecular-Scissors

So How Does This Process Work?

The scientists will extract T-cells from the blood and delete the gene that contains the PD-1 protein. This particular protein is the reason that T-cells stop harming the cancerous cells. These new modified T-cells will be multiplied in the labs and injected back into the patients. The assumption is that once the PD-1 is removed, the T-cells will be able to destroy the cancer cells. The CRISPR can also add new DNA but for this particular study deletion will take place only.

Cancer cell and Lymphocytes

This process is very simple to the now very common, immunotherapy studies. In these immune cells are extracted, modified and injected back into patients. This particular study was successful in saving the life of a girl who was supposed to have incurable leukemia. The CRISPR is a very simple and a versatile process comparatively. Over the years, the development of molecular scissors has taken up a lot of financing and a lot of time. The CRISPR on the other hand needs to be programmed according to the genome under consideration and this does not involve high development costs.

Last month NIS (National institute of Health) approved similar experiments in the US but this study will add extra genes for the treatment of three different types of cancer; melanoma, myeloma and sarcoma. China, however, seems to be way ahead of US at the moment and will probably be conducting the experiment before them.

These experiments if successful, may actually cure the increasing the number of cancer cases yearly. Let’s wait and see what happens.

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