Jun 26, 2017 | Updated: 10:45 PM EDT

CRISPR Gene Editing Controversy: Technique Could Result In Unplanned Mutations Amid Hopes That It Could Cure Cancer

May 31, 2017 07:18 PM EDT

Scientists discover that using whole genome sequence could let them assess potential hazards when conducting CRISPR gene editing technique.
(Photo : Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Scientists are reported to discover the dangerous downside of CRISPR gene editing techniques after using it in lab mice. Amid some believing it could cure cancer and other diseases, the researchers found out that it could result in hundreds of unintended DNA mutations.

According to Mail Online, researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) warn scientists that conducting CRISPR gene editing technique could result in hundreds of unintended mutations. The researchers noted that those mutations aforementioned are not detected and predicted by the algorithm.

Professor Stephen Tsang of Columbia University, which is one of the researchers then stated that when using the method, scientists should use whole genome sequencing and worry about the off-target effects of using the CRISPR gene editing technique. The research paper was published in the journal Nature Methods last May 30.

With that said, the study involved mice who have a gene that caused them blindness and were treated using CRISPR gene editing technique. It was then observed that after conducting the full genome sequence in the mice, they were found to have more than 1,500 small DNA mutation changes per mouse that they didn’t intend to modify.

"These predictive algorithms seem to do a good job when CRISPR is performed in cells or tissues in a dish, but whole genome sequencing has not been employed to look for all off-target effects in living animals," study co-author Alexander Bassuk, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa explained per Science Daily.

However, amid the CRISPR gene editing controversy, study researcher Professor Vinit Mahajan, of Stanford University and his colleagues believes that the method is still practical for medical uses but one must be aware of its side effects and hazards. Dr. Edze Westra was also mentioned to predict the method to be used in the possible treatment of cancer and all inherited diseases through adding, deleting or repairing genes.

Nonetheless, whole-genome sequencing was advised to identify potential hazards upon using CRISPR gene editing technique. The scientists also said that by observing the whole genome sequencing, other scientists could delve deeper into identifying safer and more accurate ways to use the method. Rest assured, the scientists are now studying on how to improve the technique.

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