CRISPR in Oncology (VIDEO)
As the CRISPR space evolves, how will this gene editing tool impact cancer research? Live from the AACR meeting in Chicago, our panel of experts discuss the game changer.
The CRISPR/Cas9 system—which consists of a Cas9 enzyme that snips through DNA like a pair of molecular scissors and a small RNA molecule that directs the scissors to a specific sequence of DNA—is fast becoming the preferred methodology for engineering mice because it is much faster than conventional methods. From cancer to Huntington’s, scientists are using CRISPR-Cas9 to generate mouse models of disease and some scientists have begun using the CRISPR-Cas9 system to generate other animal models.
The CRISPR space is also rapidly evolving, with the application of artificial intelligence to create predictive models of CRISPR behavior and modified enzymes that could potentially boost the utility of CRISPR/Cas9.
But CRISPR also presents huge challenges. The technology can sometimes lead to off-target mutations that could cause the gene of interest to function in unintended ways. Epigenetics, where nature and nurture can drive genetic traits, are also coming into play.
All of these questions have broad interest in the cancer field, where CRISPR genome editing could dramatically reshape the focus of cancer research. “The therapeutic impact of CRISPR is very exciting here… such as the ways they are moderating CAR-T,” says Prem Premsrirut, MD, PhD and President and CEO of Mirimus during a panel discussion organized by Eureka, Charles River’s science blog at the American Association of Cancer Research’s annual meeting in Chicago this week. “The other thing that is also frightening are studies showing that even though the sequence may be correct, CRISPR may be having an effect on epigenetics ... and what we don’t know we don’t know.”
Premsrirut, whose company uses CRISPR and RNA interference to engineer mouse models for clients, was joined on the panel by three experts at Charles River working with CRISPR in different capacities; Julia Schueler, PhD, Research Director at Charles River; Steve Festin, PhD, Senior Strategic Technical Product Manager, Research Models Services, Charles River; and Chris Dowdy, PhD, Client and Scientific Portfolio Manager at Charles River who leads CRISPR-based model creation services in North America. The panel was moderate by Dowdy.