The medical field has been exciting over the past few years, as new research and breakthrough have pushed the boundaries what’s possible. Perhaps one of the largest recent breakthroughs is in CRISPR, a method of gene editing that has huge positive implications for the medical field. There are currently a tremendous number of different initiatives exploring how to best utilize CRISPR – whether it be focused on better diagnosis or better treatment. When it comes to better treatment, there are three initiatives that may radically change medicine by utilizing CRISPR,, and they are: an edible pill that may replace antibiotics, a skin graft that can help treat Diabetes, and Ex Vivo therapy that can potentially cure sickle cell disease.
To help us decipher the potential these solutions hold will be Dr. Imran Haque, an internist and general practitioner based out of North Carolina. Dr. Imran Haque has over a decade of experience practicing medicine, and he believes that medication and treatments involving CRISPR can revolutionize the field. He will be commenting on the future benefits and implications of the three CRISPR-oriented solutions outlined before.
CRISPR pills that can replace antibiotics
In an earlier article, Dr. Imran Haque commented on how antibiotics generate diminishing returns and that a CRISPR pill can help make medicine more effective with fewer side effects. Antibiotics have two drawbacks. The first is that antibiotics take a “carpet-bombing” approach when it comes to killing off bacteria – they oftentimes wipe out huge swathes of bacteria in order to get rid of a single kind. This can often lead to bad side effects as destruction of beneficial gut flora. The second drawback is that bacteria have been developing resistance to antibiotics over time and have led to the rise of “super bacteria,” which are effectively immune to most antibiotics.
The CRISPR pill is an elegant solution because it utilizes CRISPR to modify bacteriophages (virus that target bacteria) to trigger messages in specific bacteria, causing them to self-destruct. The benefits of this approach is that a specific type or strain of bacteria can be targeted, which makes the solution ultra-precise – it will minimize collateral damage. In addition, by completely eliminating that type of bacteria, it leaves no possibility of mutation that will eventually give the bacteria resistance to the solution over time. Dr. Imran Haque is especially excited about this solution because it replaces antibiotics with a solution that’s more effective, has fewer side effects, and doesn’t give bacteria time to build up resistance.
CRISPR Skin Grafts to treat diabetes and lose weight
Another exciting development that leverages CRISPR is the creation of skin grafts that encourages insulin production and can be attached to people. It achieves this by converting fats into a hormone that leads to insulin production – it also happens to be a hormone that is almost absent in people with Type 2 diabetes. By pushing the body to create more insulin, the skin graft can be an alternative solution to people with Type 2 diabetes. Over time, the skin graft will lower insulin resistance and gradually force the body into begin producing insulin on its own. Another benefit is that the process converts fats into the hormone, which means the skin graft also has weight loss potential.
Dr. Imran Haque points out that leveraging CRISPR can lead to new strides in diabetes treatment, as the skin graft would essentially replace the need for insulin injections. Furthermore, it also gives a credible avenue for weight loss that has strong scientific backing behind it, potentially hinting at a future where weight loss is more accessible to people.
Ex Vivo Therapy
One of the most exciting uses of CRISPR is in Ex Vivo therapy – a method of modifying a patient’s cells outside the body and then infusing them back into the patient. The potential here has not yet been fully realized but is already enormous. The big win with Ex Vivo therapy is that the method allows for a perfect test to see if the solution works as expected – and it takes place entirely outside the body of the patient. This means for much safer and more effective treatments. Dr. Imran Haque has been following this research and points out that there have already been steps taken try and cure sickle cell disease with this method. The idea is to genetically modify a patient’s cell with CRISPR to correct the genetic defect, leading to the creation of normal, healthy red blood cells. With the research in place, it could be possible that sickle cell disease is the first curable disease via CRISPR.
CRISPR and future implications
Dr. Imran Haque is excited for the future of medicine through CRISPR – the gene splicing technology will have tremendous opportunity in revolutionizing medical treatments. Already, there are initiatives that leverage CRISPR to create a replacement for antibiotics, a skin graft that helps overhaul diabetes treatment, and a new process of creating safer personalized solutions. More importantly – CRISPR will usher in an era of ultra-precise treatments, ultimately making medicine cheaper in the long run. Side effects will become less significant and less common. When it comes to personalized solutions or experimental therapy, Ex Vivo therapy offers researchers access to a perfect test so they know exactly what the end result will be. Most importantly, CRISPR is a technology that will help push the boundaries of medicine by making it more effective and efficient.