When you think of gene editing technologies like CRISPR, you might imagine editing genes that relate to height, eye color, or our risk of getting certain diseases. But in truth, our DNA and RNA are full of countless proteins whose jobs have tiny yet important effects on our health. Some, for example, are heavily involved in the cell cycle, which regulates how all cells grow and divide—including cancer cells. A group of researchers out of the University of Rochester Medical Center recently used the CRISPR gene editing technique to try to eliminate one of the key proteins that allow cancer cells to proliferate out of control. While it’s just a first-of-its-kind study, the researchers think that in the future, it could be incorporated into a therapy to treat the disease.
Just like the X-Men, mutations endow cancer cells with unique abilities that normal, healthy cells just don’t have. For example, cancer cells, unlike normal ones, can invade other cells, causing the disease to metastasize to new tissues in the body and put the patient’s life further at risk.