For the first time, researchers have employed a gene-editing technique involving low-dose irradiation to edit the genome of patient stem cells, according to a study published recently. This method, developed by researchers in the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, is 10 times more effective than techniques currently in use.
"This novel technique allows for far more efficient gene editing of stem cells and will increase the speed of new discoveries in the field," said co-senior author Clive Svendsen, PhD (pictured left), director of the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute.
The irradiation method could prove effective in learning more about diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy, muscular dystrophy, and Huntington's disease. Gene editing allows scientists to correct disease causing mutations and, theoretically, cure the disease in the petri dish. Additionally, gene-editing technology allows scientists to create disease mutations in normal cells, thus modeling human disease.
When using this form of gene editing, Cedars-Sinai scientists can more efficiently insert reporter genes that glow when a stem cell turns into a specific cell of the body. For example, stem cells would turn green when converted into a heart cell and red when turned into a neuron.
"The combination of low-dose irradiation and correct gene copy will accelerate our ability to model human disease using stem cells from patients with many different disorders," said co-senior author Vaithilingaraja Arumugaswami, MVSc, PhD (pictured right), director of the Pancreas and Liver Program in the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute.
Over the past few years, the field of creating human diseases in the dish using stem cells has expanded rapidly. This work allows scientists to test novel drugs on human cells that carry disease-causing genes.
"Radiation, which is normally considered harmful, has proven beneficial in gene editing," said Svendsen. This new technique will help us establish far more accurate models and accelerate the discovery process."
Illustration: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center News Release (07/22/15)
Science Daily (07/22/15)
Abstract (Stem Cells Translational Medicine; (07/16/15))