Tuesday, April 16, 2024

MIT’s new rapid gene-editing screen to spot cancer mutations

New York, March 13 (IANS) Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a novel gene-editing screen that can rapidly find cancer mutations and help develop new therapies for the deadly disease.

In the study, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, researchers focused on p53 — a tumour suppressor gene mutated in over 50 per cent of all cancer patients.

Their technique, based on a variant of CRISPR genome-editing known as prime editing, screened cells with more than 1,000 different mutations of p53, from more than 40,000 patients.

Instead of introducing an artificial version of the mutant gene, the method just edits the genome, the researchers said.

They noted that the method can greatly help in precision medicine as well as help physicians understand how a patient’s tumour will respond to a particular treatment.

“In one experiment, you can generate thousands of genotypes that are seen in cancer patients, and immediately test whether one or more of those genotypes are sensitive or resistant to any type of therapy that you’re interested in using,” said Francisco Sanchez-Rivera, Assistant Professor of Biology, at MIT.

Further, the team used the new method to introduce p53 mutations in human lung adenocarcinoma cells — the most common lung cancer.

Measuring the survival rates of these cells, they found that some p53 mutations are more harmful than previously thought. The researchers now aim to investigate mutations found in other cancer-linked genes, and hope to one day “use this genetic information to tailor therapies for patients suffering from tumours”.

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