According to a new study released today in Nature Biotechnology, the DNA editing technique has been shown to produce unintended genomic consequences. The study–which was in review for over a year, according to STAT–found that when CRISPR edited specific genes, it also impacted unrelated genes that were far removed from the pair targets. Essentially, this means that CRISPR could unknowingly delete or alter non-targeted genes, which could lead to myriad unintended consequences. This is especially frightening, since the technology is going to be used in human clinical trials.
Meanwhile, other scientists working with CRISPR are trying to downplay the findings, telling STAT that there have been no reported adverse effects similar to what the study describes. The news, however, has brought about a market reaction–at least three publicly traded companies that focus on CRISPR-based therapies are in stock nosedive. Crispr Therapeutics is down by over 6%; Editas fell by over 3%; and Intellia Therapeutics dropped by over 5%.
The author of the paper told STAT that these findings should be seen as a “wake-up call” and that the potential genetic consequences CRISPR may bring have been “seriously underestimated.”
At the very least, this paper points to the need to look closer at the impact CRISPR could have on patients. It’s true that it may help cure some diseases. Yet an unintended gene deletion could also lead to other unknown maladies. You can read the full STAT write-up here.