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Israeli scientists kill cancer cells with groundbreaking DNA-altering treatment CRISPR

Israeli scientists kill cancer cells with breakthrough DNA-altering treatment that compares them to using ‘microscopic scissors’ to target tumors

  • Researchers at Tel Aviv University have used CRISPR Cas-9 to kill cancer cells
  • The study in mice is the first to use the gene editing tool to kill cancer in the body
  • Professor Dan Peer said he hopes the treatment will be ready to be administered to humans in two years and will eventually replace chemotherapy.
  • Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for creating the gene editing technique used in the research

Israeli scientists say they have used breakthrough technology to destroy cancer cells in mice without harming others, in what they say is a world first.

The CRISPR Cas-9 gene editing system allows scientists to make precise changes to DNA, and this year earned creators Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Research from Tel Aviv University now suggests the system could be used to treat cancer in animals, said Professor Dan Peer, whose peer-reviewed research was published in the Science Advances journal.

The cancer expert said Times of Israel that there are “no side effects” of the process, which he described as “a more elegant chemotherapy.”

“We believe that a cancer cell treated in this way will never become active again,” he said.

Israeli scientists say they have used the groundbreaking CRISPR Cas-9 gene editing technology to destroy cancer cells in mice without harming others, in what they say is a world first. Pictured: A visualization of how CRISPR can 'edit' and 'delete' parts of a cell's DNA [Stock image]

Israeli scientists say they have used the groundbreaking CRISPR Cas-9 gene editing technology to destroy cancer cells in mice without harming others, in what they say is a world first. Pictured: A visualization of how CRISPR can ‘edit’ and ‘delete’ parts of a cell’s DNA [Stock image]

“This technology can extend the life expectancy of cancer patients and we hope to one day cure the disease,” said Peer, adding that the technique can destroy a tumor within three treatments.

“This technology can physically cut the DNA in cancer cells, and those cells will not survive.”

Peer told the Times of Israel that he hopes the process will eventually replace chemotherapy – an aggressive form of treatment that can have serious side effects for patients.

Unlike the technique used in the Tel Aviv University research, chemotherapy is delivered to the whole body.

A visualization of cancer cells growing on another cell in a human. New Research From Tel Aviv University Suggests Cancer Cells In The Body Can Be Killed Without Damaging Other Cells [Stock image]

A visualization of cancer cells growing on another cell in a human. New Research From Tel Aviv University Suggests Cancer Cells In The Body Can Be Killed Without Damaging Other Cells [Stock image]

A visualization of cancer cells growing on another cell in a human. New Research From Tel Aviv University Suggests Cancer Cells In The Body Can Be Killed Without Damaging Other Cells [Stock image]

The study involved hundreds of mice with two of the most aggressive cancers: glioblastoma, brain cancer, and metastatic ovarian cancer.

The mice treated were found to have double the life expectancy of the control group, with a 30% higher survival rate, Science Advances reported.

Peer said his team plans to develop the treatment for all cancers and the technique could be ready for use in humans within two years.

Professor Dan Peer, a cancer specialist at Tel Aviv University, hopes the technique will one day replace chemotherapy

Professor Dan Peer, a cancer specialist at Tel Aviv University, hopes the technique will one day replace chemotherapy

Professor Dan Peer, a cancer specialist at Tel Aviv University, hopes the technique will one day replace chemotherapy

Currently, CRISPR Cas-9 is only used for rare diseases on cells that have already been removed from the body.

The treatment would be personalized for each patient based on a biopsy that would determine whether they received a general injection or an injection directly into the tumor.

Peer said the injection consists of messenger RNA that “codes” for the “little scissors” function for cutting the DNA, a system for identifying cancer cells, and a lipid nanoparticle.

“When we first talked about messenger RNA treatments 12 years ago, people thought it was science fiction,” Peer told the Times of Israel.

‘I believe that in the near future we will see many personalized treatments based on genetic messengers, for cancer and various genetic diseases.

“The technology needs to be further developed, but most importantly, we have shown that it can kill cancer cells.”

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