Abnormal Chromosomes Drive Cancer :Modern Gene Editing Confirms Century-Old Theory


Researchers using modern gene-editing tools have discovered that cells with abnormal numbers of Chromosomes are drivers of cancer, confirming an intuition from over a century ago. This breakthrough opens new possibilities for targeting cancer cells with drugs, potentially revolutionizing cancer treatment.

What are Chromosomes?

Chromosomes, the DNA-packed structures in cells,hold the blueprint for an organism's traits.Humans possess 23 pairs (46 total) of chromosomes, with autosomes governing general characteristics and sex chromosomes dictating biological sex(XX for females,XY for males). During cell division, chromosomes duplicate and distribute genetic material to maintain completeness.Alterations in chromosome structure or count can profoundly impact health and development.They are the threads weaving the story of life's diversity.

Historical Observation 

Scientists in the early 1900s first observed that cancer cells, as they multiplied, ended up with either too many or too few chromosomes. A German embryologist proposed that these aberrant chromosome numbers might be causing cancer, but the idea lost prominence with the identification of individual cancer-causing genes and the development of targeted therapies.

Abnormal Chromosomes driving Cancer?

Resurfacing of an Overlooked Idea 

Despite the idea's initial dismissal, the presence of chromosomal abnormalities in 90 percent of cancers remained a prominent characteristic. Researchers recognized the abnormal chromosome numbers but were uncertain about their significance. The difficulty in studying this phenomenon contributed to its neglect in cancer research.

CRISPR Hack for Chromosome Engineering 

In the recent study, scientists employed a CRISPR hack to unravel the mystery surrounding chromosomal abnormalities.To do full-scale chromosome engineering, Jason Sheltzer, a cancer biologist at Yale School of Medicine, and his team had to deploy a CRISPR hack. First, they inserted a gene from the herpes virus onto a cancer cell's extra chromosomes. Initially, they chose chromosome 1q, which is one of the first to gain or lose extra copies during the development of breast cancer.

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a revolutionary gene-editing tool that has garnered significant attention in the scientific community. It is derived from a natural defense mechanism found in bacteria, where it helps protect against viral infections.

Confirming Chromosomes as Cancer Drivers 

The innovative approach used by Sheltzer and his team provided clear evidence that extra chromosomes are not just an effect but a driver of cancer. By selectively targeting and modifying the extra chromosomes in cancer cells, they demonstrated that the resulting cells were no longer capable of forming tumors. This breakthrough confirms the long-standing hypothesis and highlights the significance of chromosomal abnormalities in cancer development.

New Avenues for Cancer Treatment 

While the current technique is still a tool rather than a therapy, it offers a new perspective on targeting cancer. By identifying and targeting cells with extra chromosomes, researchers can potentially develop drugs that specifically kill these cells. Chromosomes contain numerous genes, suggesting that this approach could expand the range of targets for cancer treatment. Even if cancer cells develop resistance by losing their extra chromosomes, it may also eliminate their cancer-causing ability.

The discovery that abnormal numbers of chromosomes play a critical role in driving cancer represents a significant breakthrough in cancer research. This finding opens up new possibilities for developing targeted therapies that selectively eliminate cancer cells. By harnessing the potential of gene-editing tools, scientists may revolutionize cancer treatment by focusing on the unique vulnerabilities presented by abnormal chromosomes.

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