I found this topic fascinating. Ever since the concepts of genes and DNA were discovered, scientists have wondered if humanity’s greatest ailments (such as cancer) could be cured, not by foreign treatments, but through the careful manipulation of the body’s natural defense mechanisms. It seems as if the CRISPR gene editing technique could be the method scientists could use to finally do this.
The way CRISPR works reminds me of the restriction enzyme lab we did in Biology class: an enzyme “snips” the chromosome at a specific site to cut out the targeted gene. In this case, the particular gene codes for the protein PD-1, which controls cells’ immune response. This is supposed to encourage healthy cells to attack cancerous cells; thus, using the body’s own tools to destroy the threat.
In theory, it seems like it is the perfect solution; however, there is room for some very serious error, as the article mentions. It could have a disastrous effect if the chromosome is cut in the incorrect spot. That’s why scientists “validate” the cells to be certain that the correct gene was removed. When I came to this part in the article, I became both intrigued and confused. I wished that the article had gone into more depth on how cells are validated. It seems impractical for the scientists to check the genes within each individual cell, so I wonder how it is actually done. Is there some actually efficient way in which the scientists are able to check many cells at once? Even if the CRISPR technique does work, the only way that it could become a viable option for the treatment of cancer and other conditions is if it is not so inefficient as to make it exorbitantly expensive (time is money to scientists and doctors!) I am very interested to hear more about this topic in the future as the clinical trials progress and more research is done.