New gene technology to help treat blood cancer

Melbourne: Australian researchers have developed a new genome editing technology that can target and kill blood cancer cells with high accuracy.

The technology called CRISPR has been adapted to specifically mimic and study blood cancer.

"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 from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Australia.

Blood cancer cell
Representational picture

The team used the CRISPR technology to target and directly manipulate genes in blood cancer cells.

"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 added.

The system works by efficiently locating and targeting particular genes of interest in the whole genome.

It can either target the gene to introduce mutations that make the gene non-functional, or introduce changes that make mutated genes function normally again.

"There is a lot of excitement and a significant amount of resources being invested worldwide to use CRISPR technology for treating patients," said Marco Herold from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

"In our study, we showed for the first time that it is possible for CRISPR technology to be used in cancer therapy, however CRISPR is a unique approach that could potentially be used for treating any disease that is caused by genetic mutations," Herold noted.

"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," Harold concluded.

The research was published in the journal Cell Reports.

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