For the first time in China, you are using the CRISPR method of genetic engineering on humans. A patient suffering from lung cancer is the first to participate in the trial of this technique that has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of cancer
Already a team of Chinese researchers at the University of Shenzhen had developed the first experiment on mice. Now, for the first time, even a person has been treated with the new technique of CRISPR genetic engineering, which allows you to edit and re-write individual letters of DNA in a mechanism similar to the ultra-precise “cut and paste” normally used by computers.
The experiment, reported in the science journal Nature, was made last October at the University of Sichuan, Chengdu, to treat an aggressive form of lung cancer. The human immune cells were taken and modified by disabling a protein that functions as a brake; in this way, they have become more aggressive against the tumor cells and then transferred in the same individual.
This new method offers extraordinary potential, because for the first time made it possible to control a complex metabolic cascade mechanism, like the one that triggers the tumor, by acting on several levels and on multiple genes simultaneously.
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The technique has been used to block the growth of cancer cells going to ‘reverse’ the cascades of signals that normally induce proliferation : a bit ‘as tamper with the “exchange” of the cell, making sure to insert the reverse gear whenever in reality would engage the first to advance.
To do this, the researchers changed the “toolbox” molecular tools CRISPR-Cas9 so that became operational in response to the molecular signal that promotes tumor growth. Once activated, the CRISPR went into action by putting the “turbo” in two genes (tumor suppressors) that inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The researchers were able to reprogram cells in a way that would respond to the growth promoting signal – on the contrary – the expression of multiple genes that induce cell death.
The CRISPR discussed, considered by geneticists all over the world as the technique of the future, has so far been used in various ways, by the development of anti-malaria mosquitoes until the correction of severe and rare genetic diseases in laboratory models, coming even to touch up human embryos for research and then destroyed.