Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


The Fertility Show


 

Genes essential to human life – and cancer – identified

30 November 2015

By Dr Jane Currie

Appeared in BioNews 830

Scientists have used genome-editing technology to identify a core set of 1580 genes that are essential to human life.

The researchers also used the same approach, involving CRISPR/Cas9, to find out which genes are essential to different types of cancer.

'With this CRISPR technology, we can now systematically go through all our biological models for cancer and map out all the tricks cancer cells have to evade drug responses,' lead researcher Professor Jason Moffat of the University of Toronto told Motherboard. 'If we can figure out what to target for every one of those cancers, we can actually build a war chest of therapeutic drugs to target all these different tricks that cancer cells use to grow and divide.'

Using CRISPR/Cas9, which allows genes to be switched on and off quickly and easily, researchers from the University of Toronto analysed the entire human genome. Out of nearly 20,000 genes they identified 1580 core 'fitness genes' which are used by most cellular processes.

The researchers also turned off genes in five different cancer cell lines, including brain, retinal, ovarian and colorectal cancer. They found that each set of cells relied on a different, unique set of fitness genes. Understanding these differences may help to identify drugs that switch off cancer genes without damaging healthy tissue.

Professor Moffat's team were able to successfully predict which drugs would be effective against specific cancer cell lines, based on their mode of action. For example, they found that the diabetes drug metformin acted against a brain cancer cell line, while the antibiotic chloramphenicol was effective against a type of colorectal cancer cell.

Professor David Sabatini, from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, led another group that recently published similar findings, lending support to the concept.

'My only fear is that we won't find a huge number of genes that differentiate cancer cells and non-cancer cells, and the ones we find won't be druggable,' said Professor Sabatini to The Atlantic. 'But we need the answer. And if those genes are there, we can find them. It'll just take industrialising this approach, with not just tens of cell lines but hundreds.' 

This study has shown the potential of CRISPR for advancing cancer research. 'The Moffat group has developed a powerful CRISPR library that could be used by investigators around the world to identify new  strategies for the treatment of cancer,' said Dr Aaron Schimmer, a medical oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, who was not involved in the study.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

31 July 2017 - by Dr Molly Godfrey 
A comprehensive map of genes crucial to tumour cell survival has been created by researchers...
08 May 2017 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Aggressive human prostate and liver tumours have been shrunk in mice by targeting a ‘fused’ gene mutation using CRISPR/Cas9...
11 January 2016 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
A study involving more than 200,000 Nordic twins has found that cancer is 33 percent heritable...

16 November 2015 - by Paul Waldron 
Over 100 million genetic changes have been found in a single tumour, according to a new study...
09 November 2015 - by Lone Hørlyck 
An experimental cell-based treatment using gene editing, previously only tested on mice, has successfully reversed advanced leukaemia in a one-year-old girl...
02 November 2015 - by Arit Udoh 
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug derived from a genetically modified herpes virus for the treatment of melanoma that cannot be removed by surgery...
02 November 2015 - by Dr Jane Currie 
A drug that targets genetic mutations in ovarian cancer has been found to work in men with prostate cancer with similar mutations, according to a new study...
05 October 2015 - by Dr Rosie Gilchrist 
An international team of scientists from the 1000 Genomes Project Consortium has created the world's largest catalogue of genomic differences among humans...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Jacques Cohen

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Andy Greenfield

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation