CRISPR, for those of you who don't know already, is a relatively easy way to edit genes. The technique is used in at least eight research projects backed by the California stem cell agency, totalling about $13.5 million.
What made CRISPR generate the headlines was research -- as Business Insider reported -- that the "blockbuster gene-editing tool has been linked to cancer." The assessment was described as hype by some scientists.
Paul Knoepfler, the peripatetic stem cell blogger and researcher at UC Davis, explored the implications of the findings in an item earlier this week. He wrote,
"To say that CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing might 'cause cancer' seems premature to me so there probably were and are better ways for people to phrase the big-picture meaning of these new papers and others like them that may pop up in the future. However, to be clear safety is crucial, so this is an important development and risks of any potential therapy including gene editing-based approaches should be carefully weighed against potential benefits as trials are designed and then progress."The California Stem Cell Report asked the agency, which monitors the research it funds, for a list of its projects involving CRISPR. Here is what the agency provided, including the disease focus, principal investigator and grant number.
- Sickle cell disease, $4.5 million, Childrens Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Mark Walters, TRAN1-09292
- Muscular dystrophy, $2.2 million, UCLA, April Pyle, DISC2-08824
- Vision loss, $232,200, UC San Diego, Karl Wahlin, DISC1-08683
- Neurological disorders, $1.9 million, Parkinson's Institute, Birgitt Schuele, DISC2-09610
- Blood disorders, immune disease, $984,228, Stanford, Rosa Bacchetta, DISC2-09526
- Blood disorders, $1.5 million, UCLA, Caroline Kuo, DISC2-10124
- Cystic Fibrosis, respiratory disorders, $2 million, Stanford, Matthew Porteus, DISC2-09637
- Blood Cancer, cancer, $235,800, UC Berkeley, Jacob Corn, DISC1-08776