Gene editing with CRISPR could cause cancer, geneticists warn

Scientists at Tel Aviv University warn that while the CRISPR genome editing method is very

effective, it is not always safe.In a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, they showed that sometimes the rearrangement of DNA fragments compromises the stability of the genome, which can subsequently cause cancer.

To explore the extent of potential damage,geneticists have replicated the conditions of the first clinical trials in which CRISPR/Cas9 was used to treat humans. This study was conducted in Pennsylvania. Scientists then used the edited T-cells for cancer therapy.

In their work, researchers from Israel splitthe genome of T-lymphocytes in exactly the same places as in the Pennsylvania experiment - chromosomes 2, 7 and 14 of the 23 pairs of chromosomes of the human genome. Using RNA sequencing, they analyzed each cell separately and measured the expression levels of each chromosome in each of them. The results showed significant loss of genetic material in some cells.

For example, when chromosome 14 was split,in approximately 5% of cells, the expression of this chromosome was insignificant or absent altogether. When all chromosomes were split simultaneously, the damage increased: 9%, 10%, and 3% of the cells were unable to repair the break in chromosomes 14, 7, and 2, respectively.

Overall, our results show that more than 9%T cells edited with CRISPR technology have lost a significant amount of genetic material. Such loss can lead to destabilization of the genome, which may contribute to the development of cancer.

Asaf Madi, study co-author, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post

Scholars emphasize that they do not considernecessary to completely ban the use of the new technology, but call for caution in its application. CRISPR has shown potential efficacy in the treatment of many diseases, and the same team of geneticists recently introduced a method for using CRISPR to treat HIV. The researchers believe that understanding the potential side effects will help refine the technology.

Previously, Hi-Tech talked about "gentle CRISPR" technology, which uses a safer approach to correct genetic defects.

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