“Our Gene-Edited Future”

NPR: He Inherited A Devastating Disease. A CRISPR Gene-Editing Breakthrough Stopped It

Previously the CRISPR gene-editing has been used to counter genetic defects in conditions like sickle cell and thalasemia. This has involved taking cells out of the body, editing them in the lab, and infusing them back in or injecting CRISPR directly into cells that need fixing.

Now, scientists are directly injecting nanoparticles with the CRISPR gene-editing tools. Here’s an excerpt:

Doctors infused billions of microscopic structures known as nanoparticles carrying genetic instructions for the CRISPR gene-editor into four patients in London and two in New Zealand. The nanoparticles were absorbed by their livers, where they unleashed armies of CRISPR gene-editors. The CRISPR editor honed in on the target gene in the liver and sliced it, disabling production of the destructive protein.

Within weeks, the levels of protein causing the disease plummeted, especially in the volunteers who received a higher dose. Researchers reported at the Peripheral Nerve Society Annual Meeting and in a paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“This is really opening a new era as we think about gene-editing where we can begin to think about accessing all kinds of different tissue in the body via systemic administration

Related study: JD Gilmore et al. NEJM. 2021. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2107454. CRISPR-Cas9 In Vivo Gene Editing for Transthyretin Amyloidosis.

My take: This type of discovery could dramatically improve the treatment of many diseases including heart disease, muscular dystrophy and brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Related blog post: Genetically Modified Humans: Genome Editing 101