Jun 11, 2018

A CRISPR gene-editing method could lead to cancer, studies warn

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Editing cell genomes with CRISPR-Cas9 might increase the risk of developing cancer, two studies published Monday warn, STAT News reports.

Why it matters: The goal of altering cells with CRISPR, a gene-editing tool, is to treat disease, not cause it. If these new results hold up, they could present an insurmountable roadblock for the development of certain CRISPR-based therapies. They are unlikely to stop all CRISPR-based treatment, however.

  • Already, stocks for CRISPR Therapeutics, Editas Medicine, Intellia Therapeutics, and Sangamo Therapeutics have tanked over the reports. These companies are developing treatments for diseases based on the CRISPR techniques the two studies call into question.

The science: The results of these studies likely only apply to one way that CRISPR Cas9 edits genomes, when it replaces disease-causing DNA with modified, healthy versions, per STAT News. It is possible the results don’t apply to another method, which cuts DNA out.

  • What they’re saying: The results are “plausible,” the CEO of CRISPR Therapeutics, Sam Kulkarni, told STAT.

Trend: It’s not the first time CRISPR has run into trouble. A claim in a paper last year that CRISPR caused many off-target side-effects was retracted over interpretations of data, and a report that that humans may be immune to Cas9 was determined to be something that could be worked around.

Go deeper

Trump walks to historic St. John's Church outside White House as protests rage

President Trump walked to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, located just steps away from the White House across Lafayette Park, on Monday night as protests linked to the murder of George Floyd raged across the capital and cities around the country.

What we're seeing: Military police and park rangers used physical force and tear gas on peaceful protestors to clear the area so that Trump could "pay respects" to the church that was damaged by a fire on Sunday.

Trump threatens to deploy military amid national unrest

President Trump announced from the White House Rose Garden Monday evening that he is "mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military" to stop violent protests across the country, decrying "professional anarchists, looters, criminals, antifa and others" whose actions have "gripped" the nation.

The backdrop: Trump's announcement came as police clashed with protesters just outside of the White House, using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot," and other slogans. Flash bangs used outside the White House could be heard from the Rose Garden.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Autopsies say George Floyd's death was homicide

Police watch as demonstrators block a roadway while protesting the death of George Floyd in Miami. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Preliminary results from an independent autopsy commissioned by George Floyd's family found that his death in the custody of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was "homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain," according to a statement from the family's attorney.

The latest: An updated official autopsy released by the Hennepin County medical examiner also determined that the manner of Floyd's death was "homicide," ruling it was caused by "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdued, restraint, and neck compression."