Scientists test "genetic scissors" in cancer and virus cases



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The CRISPR technique consists of cutting pieces of DNA with a "genetic chisel" to modify certain fragments. For several years, the scientific community has been studying this method, promising to create new gene therapies. At the American University of Pennsylvania, a research team is conducting tests on two cancer patients since September 2018 : One has multiple myeloma, one cancer that affects the bone marrow and the other a tumor that develops in the supporting tissues of the body, called sarcoma. With CRISPR, they try to deactivate a gene present in both patients. The work should be completed in January 2033.

A new version of CRISPR

In parallel, another research team from Cornell University in the United States developed CRISPR-Cas3: this version of the "genetic chisel" allows to exclude certain segments of DNA. CRISPR-Cas9, the prior art, works by editing the genes. The goal is to successfully eliminate some viruses, such as herpes or hepatitis B.

A controversial method

In the fall of 2018, a Chinese researcher announced that he had used the CRISPR method to modify the DNA of one embryo, which gave rise to two binoculars. The purpose of this scientific act was to protect the two girls from AIDS because their father was HIV positive. The news shocked the scientific community around the world. The case recalls that these DNA modification techniques should be used within a strict legal framework and in accordance with medical ethics.

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