Fast-spreading CRISPR tech inspires new preclinical work on blood cancers

The promise of new gene editing technology called CRISPR has been lighting up a string of new lab experiments around the world. Now a group of scientists in Melbourne, Australia, say they used CRISPR to edit out a gene needed to keep lymphoma cells alive. And they're touting the potential for this new technology in a range of drug research projects, citing contacts from dozens of research groups in the country looking to do their own work in gene editing.

"Using preclinical models, we were able to kill human Burkitt lymphoma cells by deleting MCL-1, a gene that has been shown to keep cancer cells alive," said Brandon Aubrey, a hematologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. "Our study showed that the CRISPR technology can directly kill cancer cells by targeting factors that are essential for their survival and growth. As a clinician, it is very exciting to see the prospect of new technology that could in the future provide new treatment options for cancer patients."

Aubrey worked with Gemma Kelly and Marco Herold in adapting the technology for blood cancers. Herold noted that CRISPR has the potential to work for any cancer triggered by a genetic mutation. And he was particularly impressed by the speed in which they were able to achieve real results using a preclinical model.

"In addition to its very exciting potential for disease treatment, we have shown that it has the potential to identify novel mutations in cancer-causing genes and genes that 'suppress' cancer development, which will help us to identify how they initiate or accelerate the development of cancer," says Herold.

"The technology dramatically shortens the time frame for fundamental research, allowing us to speed up the discoveries that could be translated to better diagnostics and treatments for the community."

It's fast catching on in academic research groups. In recent weeks FierceBiotechResearch has covered several new CRISPR preclinical projects, including new work on HIV and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

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