Sunday, August 19, 2018

Can electric fields tweak genes in immune cells?

Cancer treatment revolution possible via new gene-editing technique, new report says

A new rapid gene-editing method potentially could revolutionize treatments for cancer.

According to a story by Gina Kolata in recent editions of The New York Times, researchers have reported in a new scientific paper that they've found a way to tweak genes in the body's immune cells by using electrical fields.

What could happen, Kolata reports, is that genes could be removed from white blood cells and beneficial replacements inserted — "all in far less time than it normally takes to edit genes."

In addition to cancer, the method apparently could profoundly impact "infections such as HIV and autoimmune conditions like lupus and humanoid arthritis."

The journal Nature first published details of the paper, but "because the technique is so new, no patients have yet been treated with white blood cells engineered with it," the Times story indicates.

Currently, Kolata notes, "scientists attempting to edit the genome often must rely on modified viruses to slice open DNA in a cell and to deliver new genes into the cell. The method is time-consuming and difficult, limiting its use."

Fred Ramsdell, Ph.D.
The use of electrical fields rather than viruses, a process that's vastly speedier, means that "in theory a treatment could be available to patients with almost any type of cancer," her story continues. And the Times writer then quotes Fred Ramsdell, Ph.D. and vice president of research at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in San Francisco, as saying, "I think it's going to be a huge breakthrough."

The institute, she writes, "is working with the authors of the new paper, led by Dr. Alexander Marson, scientific director of biomedicine at the Innovative Genomics Institute — a partnership between University of California, San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley — to make engineered cells to treat a variety of cancers."

The scientists already are conferring with Food and Drug Administration employees about using the new method to attack both solid and blood cancers.

"Our intent," says Ramsdell, "is to try to apply this as quickly as possible."

Information about other cancer research can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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