Chinese scientists are hoping for a medical breakthrough as they have started testing the CRISPR revolutionary and controversial technique.
Chengdu University of China scientists have now initiated the first human trial to use the therapy as an unknown patient has been injected with the technique.
The first trial patient suffers from non-small cell lung cancer, meaning that his cell cancer has spread throughout the body.
The researchers removed the patient’s immune cells and disabled the PD-1 protein which is believed to help cancer spread. CRISPR was used so as to edit, culture, and then multiply the cells, which were then re-injected in the sufferer’s body.
CRISPR or CRISPR-Cas9 is a new, revolutionary technique which allows scientists to alter the DNA so as to remove potentially damaging factors.
This is achieved through the addition, modification, or removal of specific genome parts. The CRISPR technique features the combination between a DNA-cutting enzyme and a molecular guide. This latter could be programmed so as to guide the enzyme towards a precise, specific DNA cut.
If the method is proven to be successful, it could mark a breakthrough and a change in the way we treat disease.
The actual patient has received one of the designated two CRISPR modified cells injections. The results of the injection should determine the PD-1 free body to attack the damaging cancer cells.
This is the first out of 10 designated patients to participate in the human study trial. A number of other nine patients will be receiving either two or four injections as a treatment method.
As scientists are waiting for the preliminary results, they could come with double benefits. The first would go to show that CRISPR is safe to use in human treatments. The other would be the potential to cure or at least stop the spread of cancer.
The United States will also be carrying out a CRISPR cancer patients human trial study that will be initiated in 2017.
The US study will involve a number of 18 patients and will have the same main objective of proving CRISPR’s safe usage.
It may seem odd that a trial’s objective should be to demonstrate the safe usage of the applied technique, but CRISPR has given rise to quite a few questions and controversies.
As the technique could have outstanding results in the treatment and even possible cure of certain disease, it could also lead to irreparable damage.
Because CRISPR acts at the genome’s level, any miscalculation or mistake could lead to vital changes in the DNA. For example, it could lead to the appearance of a new disease which could weaponize the body and lead to a pandemic that would spread to generations to come.
The substantial benefits of the technique are as such contested by its possible irreparable adverse effects, which will be confirmed or infirmed by the human trials.
The usage of CRISPR also poses ethical questions and debates as humanity is starting to tweak its DNA, which could in turn lead to future, more significant alterations.
Image Source: Wikimedia