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New study hints that CRISPR gene editing causes permanent genome damage, possibly triggering cancer in the long run.

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Doh! This is not what we wanted to hear. Scientists at Tel Aviv University announced the results of a study today that found that while the Nobel-prize-winning CRISPR genome-editing method is very effective, it is not always safe and that sometimes, rearranging pieces of DNA compromises genomic stability, possibly triggering cancer in the long run.

“Our intention in this study was to shed light on potential risks in the use of CRISPR therapeutics. We did this even though we are aware of the technology’s substantial advantages.”

The damage comes in the form of a loss of genetic material – up to 10% of the cell. This leads to destabilization of the genome, which of course, can lead to cancer.

“The genome in our cells often breaks due to natural causes, but usually it is able to repair itself, with no harm done. Still, sometimes a certain chromosome is unable to bounce back, and large sections or even the entire chromosome are lost. Such chromosomal disruptions can destabilize the genome, and we often see this in cancer cells. Thus, CRISPR therapeutics, in which DNA is cleaved intentionally as a means for treating cancer, might, in extreme scenarios, actually promote malignancies.”

CRISPR is a revolutionary technology developed nearly a decade ago for editing DNA by cleaving its sequences at certain locations, deleting “unwanted segments” or repairing them. The method was proven effective in treating a range of diseases. CRISPR therapeutics is already being used for treating cancer, liver, and intestinal diseases as well as genetic problems at a cellular level.