Editing cells’ genomes with CRISPR-Cas9 might increase the risk that the altered cells, intended to treat disease, will trigger cancer, two studies published on Monday warn — a potential game-changer for the companies developing CRISPR-based therapies.
Another leading CRISPR scientist, who asked not to be named because of involvement with genome-editing companies, called the new data “pretty striking,” and raised concerns that a potential fatal flaw in some uses of CRISPR had “been missed.”
“We found that cutting the genome with CRISPR-Cas9 induced the activation of … p53,” said Emma Haapaniemi, the lead author of the Karolinska study. That “makes editing much more difficult.”
The flip side of p53 repairing CRISPR edits, or killing cells that accept the edits, is that cells that survive with the edits do so precisely because they have a dysfunctional p53 and therefore lack this fix-it-or-kill-it mechanism.
I've been skeptical about this for awhile, and arguing this exact point: double stranded breaks would induce the majority of cells with the target sequence to self-destruct, lyse, or go senescent. I've seen this reflected in the data on cell counts of almost every paper that includes it. Things are much worse than I thought if "leading CRISPR scientists" are now acting surprised at this.