Researchers have raised alarm over the king of genome-editing tools, CRISPR, after major DNA deletions were detected during the gene-editing process, suggesting the risk of genetic damage is much greater than previously thought.
CRISPR/Cas9 is one of the newest genome-editing tools and is considered very powerful. It can alter sections of DNA in cells by cutting at specific points and introducing changes at that location.
While the tool is already extensively used in scientific research, it is also poised to become the gene editor of choice in clinical contexts with potential for treating diseases such as HIV, cancer or sickle cell disease.
— RT (@RT_com) November 16, 2017
However, this new study, carried out at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK, suggests the technique is not as safe as previously thought and could lead to dangerous changes in some cells and, potentially, even cause cancer.
"This is the first systematic assessment of unexpected events resulting from CRISPR/Cas9 editing in therapeutically relevant cells, and we found that changes in the DNA have been seriously underestimated before now,” study co-author Professor Allan Bradley said in a statement.
Researchers carried out a full systematic study in both mouse and human cells and discovered that CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations – but at a great distance from the target site where CRISPR/Cas9 was used to make the edit.'
Read more: CRISPR DNA-editing may result in serious genetic damage – study