MIT Develops Rapid Gene-Editing Screen for Cancer Mutations

#Innovative method targets p53 gene mutations, promises tailored therapies for patients.

MIT has developed an innovative gene-editing screening tool aimed at swiftly identifying cancer mutations, thereby aiding the development of new therapies for this lethal disease.

Outlined in a study published in Nature Biotechnology, MIT scientists targeted p53, a gene crucial for suppressing tumors, which is mutated in over half of all cancer patients. Employing a variation of CRISPR genome-editing called prime editing, the researchers screened cells bearing more than 1,000 different mutations of p53, sourced from over 40,000 patients.

Unlike conventional methods that involve introducing an artificial version of the mutant gene, this approach directly edits the genome, the researchers explained. They highlighted its potential to significantly advance precision medicine and enhance clinicians’ understanding of how a patient’s tumor might react to specific treatments.

Francisco Sanchez-Rivera, Assistant Professor of Biology at MIT, emphasized the efficiency of the method: “In one experiment, you can generate thousands of genotypes observed in cancer patients, and promptly assess whether any of those genotypes are responsive or resistant to a particular therapy of interest.”

Furthermore, the team utilized this novel technique to introduce p53 mutations into human lung adenocarcinoma cells, the most prevalent form of lung cancer. By assessing the survival rates of these cells, they uncovered that certain p53 mutations pose greater harm than previously understood. The researchers aim to explore mutations associated with other cancer-related genes and aspire to eventually utilize this genetic insight to tailor therapies for patients afflicted by tumors.

Shruti Suman

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