Saturday , January 23 2021

Francisco Mojica: "The genetic release can be accepted as it did with artificial insemination or insulin" [ENTREVISTA]

University of Alicante

Rarely a scientific term comes out of papers Or magazines of satisfaction to hang around bars and family dinners. But Crisper, despite her consonants, had achieved it. And no less, it's a tool that opens the doors to genetic editing, a possibility that frightens us and fascinates us almost equally.

God Circumcision Is an acronym for "prokaryotes" (bacteria and archaea), which recur several times in a very strange way, coming from bacteria, viruses, or invasive genetic material that clings to ancestors and is stored in memory to fight it, "explains Francisco Moog, "To destroy it, they use several proteins, some scissors that are laid by the previous information that their ancestors collected at the DNA area of ​​the invading virus and they cut it." This is the basis To the revolutionary technique developed by the researchers Emanuel Czernet and Jennifer Dodna in 2012 to edit the The DNA of every living creature.

If there has been a recent social discussion about this technique is that the Chinese researcher is Jiankui, promised (without any evidence so far) used it to create the first genetically engineered babies to be immune to HIV, smallpox and cholera. The scientific community, including its creator, has demonstrated a rejection of the genetic manipulation of human embryos. But the debate over the street is served.

Mojica has been a favorite of the Nobel Prizes for several years, although he says that winning the prize "will be more of a problem." So modest was this scientist in conversation with N + 1, where he patiently explains the meaning of this knowledge and where the investigation with CRISPR goes.

Q: If it was OK that two Chinese genetically engineered girls were born, what would be the results?

Answer: On the social level, this has a tremendous impact. Since 2013, some scientists have known that what could have happened could have been a dialogue on genetic editing, not only in science but also in society, making decisions and legislation to adapt them to new times. And it seems that this was a significant boost. It is said that "the wolf is coming, the wolf is coming," that is already here: in principle, every situation of a person from whom we knew what can change its genetic factors, and we talk, for example,

Q: Is there a negative impact on the health of these girls?

A: The author says no, but most geneticists say yes. The technology is still not mature. This can lead to so-called mosaicism, that is, different changes in different cells. One part of the body will be different in one form or another in another form. This mixture of the individual will have much more dramatic results, because it is impossible to predict what will happen.

Some or both of these girls can develop problems such as being more sensitive to the flu virus, or other consequences that we do not know. According to previous experiments done on animals and that in one childhood only the gene of one of the parents has changed and not of the other, it may be that they are still susceptible to infection of the AIDS virus. Perhaps nothing has been achieved.

What is likely to happen now is that the fear that this provoked provokes a response that blocks research, which I think should not happen: one thing is research and the other is the application of this study to cure diseases. The application should be carried out when the research ensures you the minimum risk or benefit that goes well beyond this risk.

Q: What kind of investigations with this technique are being performed today?

A: In clinical trials As God sends, Monitor the regulations, announce what has been achieved, all necessary approvals and all necessary precautions. For example, how to fight cancer with immunotherapy is studied. This involves extracting blood cells, especially D lymphocytes, from the tumor and altering them so that when they are returned to the patient they can destroy the tumor cells. It is also used for other diseases of the blood, for example, hemophilia.

As for embryo research, the reasons for rejection and development of embryos in artificial insemination are discussed, as well as the possibility of healing diseases such as hemophilia or hypertrophic heart disease. The immediate intention of these investigations is to know the implications of these changes and their effectiveness, and in the future decide whether it can prevent inherited genetic problems from parents.

Q: What are the main problems that CRISPR presents?

A: Assaulting the DNA of a living cell by cutting it down in CRISPR activates the repair system for the damage, because if the cell is not repaired, it is dead.This patch can be done in different ways, one of which is like it should be broken and joined with Glue is not perfect, but with residue: the cell trying to repair desperately produces random changes in the area where the incision occurred.

Another more complex mechanism is the one used for editing: in addition to giving the cell Scissors And the guide gets a piece of DNA that matches the area where the cut is about to exist but does not have to match 100%, but more information is added. Then the cell repairs using this information of the mold given to it so the information of each region of the genome can be changed consciously.

An alternative to this technique is to change, not the DNA, where the wrong information resides, but the RNA, which is the one that passes this information.

Q: What is RNA modification? Are we talking about the future of CRISPR?

A: That's what you know about what the subject is. With RNA, no permanent change is made in the cell. While there is an edition of DNA, it will be enough, in principle, with an application once in your life, with no RNA. The transmitter is different so it does not communicate bad news: you say "RNA, even if the DNA told you that, no, you must say it differently."

This is a great release because it does not require cutting or repairing DNA. If there is a [adenina, uno de los cuatro componentes del ADN junto a citocina, guanina y timina] And you do not like it because it produces a disease and it is known that it is resolved by changing this C (cytokines), with this technique can be done. For now, it has been applied in cases with animals to see if it is able to alleviate some of the symptoms of diseases and worked.

Q: Are we on the way to Excellent race Of human beings?

A: We do not know where it will come from. History has already taught us that public opinion changes radically and sometimes in very short time. When genetic engineering grew in the 1970s, "recombinant DNA technology" then called, "You can cut, paste, rearrange the genetic information of living things, what a monster!" And now it's something done every day in the labs, or When it was suggested to introduce DNA to humans to produce insulin, it initially created rejection and it seemed so normal, and if it were not for many people who could not enjoy life more or less healthy over a long period of time. There are other examples such as artificial insemination .

Something similar can happen with that. We are terrified that humans can be made on the letter, but what will undoubtedly have a very good reception is to cure diseases. By using CRISPR as a therapeutic agent in a sick adult, I do not think anyone put any negatives.

Q: You've said many times that you do not worry about Novell. Do the implications of what (so to speak) happen in China take you away from such recognition?

A: Well, I was worried if they gave it to me (laughs). CRISPR is allows to do things that before can not be dreamed that you can do, there are so many doors that opened up this knowledge about immune system function of bacteria that I understand it comes from.

Do not think people can do madness, As this scholar, they take the merit. There has been progress in the life sciences and health in recent years, since there has been no progress in fifty or a hundred years, I would say. The advantage is very large. I believe that CRISPR will take the Nobel Prize, regardless of who they give it to. I do not know when, maybe twenty years from now. Although if you do not take it, nothing happens either, there is no doubt there are other areas that deserve it too, so what's the difference?

Beatrice de Vera

This news was originally published in N + 1, a science that adds.

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