CRISPR Gene-Editing Technology May Not Be Nearly as Precise as Previously Thought

One month ago we discussed how the CRISPR genome-editing tool offers promise in cancer immunotherapy.

The revolutionary gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 is often described as “molecular scissors” for its ability to turn previously improbable feats of genetic engineering into exercises in cutting and pasting.

Yet, a study out this week in the journal Nature Methods reminds that CRISPR remains a nascent technology with a long way to go before doctors and scientists can freely cut and paste human DNA, to achieve the breast cancer and other cancers treatment breakthrough for which CRISPR offers promise, in this report from Gizmodo.

When correcting blindness in mice, researchers at Columbia University found that though CRISPR did manage to successfully edit the particular gene responsible for blindness, it also caused mutations to more than a thousand other unintended genes.

Researchers said there was nothing obviously wrong with the mice—they didn’t suddenly grow a third ear or a tumor. But it’s hard to know how those new mutations might impact the mice in more subtle ways, or long term.

The off-target effects of CRISPR have long been known, but this new research highlights just how extensive they can be, and highlights the importance of research to understand them.

Learn more by reading the full story in Gizmodo, and in reading the study results.

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