It's been awhile since I've posted. Here's a short piece I put together for my author Facebook page on Crispr and the treatment of disease on the genetic level. This one is about an impending trial to treat cancer using modifications to the immune system.
A federal ethics panel has approved an experiment to edit the immune systems of 18 patients to target cancer cells more effectively. The FDA still needs to give final approval. This is amazing science and regardless of the outcome, shows the awesome potential of gene editing to treat genetically-based diseases.
The fact is, this kind of genetic engineering is coming much quicker than many anticipated. I remember reading about the first trials of gene therapy many years ago and marveling at what was to come. Well, that was 20 years ago and gene therapy is still very much an idea with an abundance of promise but with little in the way of widespread success. The difference this time around is Crispr, which is a power and low-cost way to edit the genome. Crispr has often been referred to as molecular scissors. As the story I've linked to in this post says, the upcoming trial is just the beginning of a whole new way to treat disease, to modify food and to essentially rewrite the genome.
My first novel, EVEN THE WIND -- soon to be re-released with a new title and cover -- uses Crispr as a plot device to advance a nefarious scheme to profit from genetic manipulation. At the time of the writing, I thought the technique highly speculative and fanciful. The thing is, I don't really think that way anymore. The conceit of my use of Crispr was that its low cost and relative ease of use -- and the speed with which it produces results -- puts extremely powerful biological tools into the hands of folks with little specialized training. This is exactly what is happening today. And as the accompanying posts says, it's happening much faster than many thought.
One side note: the experimental cancer treatment is being funded by the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. The institute was launched by Sean Parker of Facebook and file-sharing service Napster fame. So it looks like there's some good coming from file-sharing after all. Hooray for that.