Researchers at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine have developed a new platform based on the revolutionary CRISPR/Cas9 technology, to alter the way human cells respond to external signals, and provide new opportunities for stopping cancer cells from developing.
Cells are constantly monitoring the environment around them and are programmed to respond to molecular cues in their surroundings in distinct ways – some cues may prompt cells to grow, some lead to cell movement and others initiate cell death.
What if we could alter the way our cells respond to certain aspects of their environment? Or make them react to signals that wouldn’t normally provoke a reaction? New research published by scientists at the University of Oxford takes cellular engineering to the next level in order to achieve just that.
In a paper published in Cell Reports, graduate student Toni Baeumler and Associate Professor Tudor Fulga, from the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, Radcliffe Department of Medicine, have used a derivative of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology to rewire the way cells respond to extracellular signals.
Not all diseases are caused by a defined error in the DNA. In more complex disorders like diabetes and cancer, it may be necessary to completely rewire the way in which cells work.
While a long way from the clinic, the work suggests that this technology could be used to rewire the way that cells in the body function.
With this new technique developed in Oxford, the team hopes that genome engineering does not have to be limited to correcting DNA faults but altering the way that cells work – regardless of the root cause of disease.