Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Entry Two: CRISPR

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.

4 comments:

  1. When I read the article, I just brushed over that fact, just accepting that they could check them. Now that you point that out, though, it would be impossible for them to check every single cell, or if they decided to do it, it would make the process excruciatingly long and really not effective in getting the cells back to the subjects. Maybe, to throw it back to stats, they have some sampling scheme that they are using to judge whether the correct gene has been altered. In this case, they would be taking a gamble that they don't even mention in the article, as they would be making a determination of the accuracy of the whole group based on only a sample, something that always has a chance of messing up, and letting a bad cell through. I would be very interested in finding out the details in their "double checking" process, as they do really glaze over it in the article.

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  2. I agree with you Lizzy that the part about validation to make sure the right part of the cell is being manipulated is way too confusing. I don't understand how something so small can be looked at that closely. I wonder how you can really tell the difference in something that is so small. I feel as though this process would be really slow and teadious, but yet possibly very rewarding if it turns out to be a way to cure cancer. But if the process is really slow could it be motified so it could reach more people than just a select few? I mean if this does turn out to be a cure for cancer it would be in very high demand. --Maya

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  3. I agree with you Lizzy that the part about validation to make sure the right part of the cell is being manipulated is way too confusing. I don't understand how something so small can be looked at that closely. I wonder how you can really tell the difference in something that is so small. I feel as though this process would be really slow and teadious, but yet possibly very rewarding if it turns out to be a way to cure cancer. But if the process is really slow could it be motified so it could reach more people than just a select few? I mean if this does turn out to be a cure for cancer it would be in very high demand. --Maya

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  4. I agree with you Lizzy that the part about validation to make sure the right part of the cell is being manipulated is way too confusing. I don't understand how something so small can be looked at that closely. I wonder how you can really tell the difference in something that is so small. I feel as though this process would be really slow and teadious, but yet possibly very rewarding if it turns out to be a way to cure cancer. But if the process is really slow could it be motified so it could reach more people than just a select few? I mean if this does turn out to be a cure for cancer it would be in very high demand. --Maya

    ReplyDelete