Biomedical research first coined the phrase, “war on cancer” in 1971. Many breakthroughs in research emerged in this decade as a result of the ongoing fight against this disease. And though many innovations were made in treatment, the cure has so far proved elusive. In the modern era, the introduction of CRISPR-Cas9, a tool to edit DNA, provides medical professionals with new frontiers in how cancer is treated. CRISPR opens up the potential to prevent cancer and place us one step closer to a cure. Even though many are concerned about the tool, we’ve already seen a lot of progress toward these goals.
Researchers aim to either prevent cancer from happening in the first place or beating it all together, a lofty goal to be sure. While some have complained about the lack of progress in the last couple of decades, people shouldn’t overlook the value taken from incremental breakthroughs that bring the medical field on step closer to curing this heartbreaking illness. For example, some researchers hope to use CRISPR to reduce the debilitating effects of chemotherapy for patients.
In the big picture, researchers hope that CRISPR will eliminate diseases or cure them. In particular, monogenetic disorders can be easily targeted and eradicated through its use. Once researchers understand it better, the tool will grow in potential because the instruction manual could be rewritten for every living creature. Many of the researchers involved in CRISPR have kept a close eye on the ups and downs of this research because it displays incredible potential for many things. A steady flow of research has produced confusing twists and turns, but it could be an interesting step forward for medical science.
Concerns of Precision
Good research doesn’t ignore the potential for problems, however. For example, some scientists have expressed concern for the precision of CRISPR’s edits when they attempt to repair cells. If they go off-target, the edits could produce terrible changes to the DNA. Unfortunately, research still hasn’t come far enough to understand the potential side effects that could arise for patients. Even despite the promise, researchers must proceed with some level of caution to avoid a disaster. Though CRISPR is undeniably powerful, medical professionals have a duty to ensure that it is used and studied responsibly.
Chemotherapy has lifesaving potential, but unfortunately, it’s a terribly imprecise and unsophisticated tool. The toxins chemotherapy pumps into the body to destroy the cancer cells also kill the healthy cells as collateral damage. The people who have watched a loved one receive chemotherapy understand how it can impede the flow of daily life. Some of the nasty side effects include hair loss, nausea and anemia. Through CRISPR, scientists hope to ease these effects and make treatment a less painful and more dignified process for patients.