Gene Editing Helping Patients With Cancer

Posted: Nov 7 2015, 3:35pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


Gene Editing Helping Patients with Cancer
Photo Credit: Getty Images

There have been more and more advancements in the field of cancer research to help people survive and thrive. Now, there has been an advancement in using molecular scalpels to slice genes.

This type of gene editing has helped push a one year old girl at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London into leukemia remission says Science News. Layla is being treated with immune cells that were altered by TALENs, a molecular surgical instrument. It is the first time that they have been successfully used to treat a person.

Gene editing is becoming more and more popular in trials. Scientists have been able to select from a plethora of scalpels, including things like CRISPR/Cas9, zinc finger nucleases, and TALENs. All of these tools were designed to cut DNA.

Both zinc finger nucleases and TALENs are pairs of proteins that are latched onto DNA at specific places and then cut. CRISPs are RNAs that researchers use to guide the enzyme Cas9 to a spot on the DNA and then it cuts it. Researchers embraced the CRISPR because they found that it was easier to work with and was also cheaper.

Layla isn't the first person to get the surgery, but she is the first person to be cured. Sangamo BioSciences first used finger nucleases 5 years ago to remove a protein for HIV patients. More than 80 people have been treated.

For little Layla, doctors used TALENs to engineer the immune cells to destroy the cancer cells without actually harming the patient. The immune cells are called CAR T cells that help the body to distinguish between good and bad cells.

Layla had a type of blood cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The cut down on a protein called the T cell receptor alpha chain. Cutting out the gene means the T cells “can no longer recognize anything as foreign,” says Mark Osborn, a molecular biologist at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis.

The team still has a long way to go, and there aren’t many working models, but they are hoping that soon they will be able to treat many cancer patients. They will also keep testing Layla to see if the cancer comes back.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/46" rel="author">Noel Diem</a>
Noel passion is to write about geek culture.




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