CRISPR gene editing is a genetic technique that removes mutated genes and replaces them with nonmutated ones. While some research indicates it may help with vision, there is no conclusive evidence.
Researchers have shown the potential benefits of this revolutionary procedure in treating some cases of visual loss due to inherited mutated genes.
However, using CRISPR gene editing has inherent risks and safety concerns. Because researchers have conducted most studies on animals, health experts do not know how safe or effective it is when they use the technique in humans.
This article discusses the possible benefits of CRISPR gene editing for vision loss and the associated risks and complications.
Though some research studies have shown that CRISPR gene editing has the potential to restore vision, there is no conclusive evidence yet. Some animal studies have demonstrated the possibility of CRISPR gene editing in restoring visual loss.
A 2023 study revealed that CRISPR helped restore the vision of mice with retinitis pigmentosa — one of the causes of blindness in humans. The researchers used the CRISPR gene editing approach to restore the genes in selected mice.
The typical gene editing process in restoring vision involves deleting the mutated genes at a particular segment and inserting the corrected genes into specific retina cells. However, this is currently a theoretical treatment option and not a scientifically proven one.
Genetic mutations in the retina cells could produce atypical proteins that can affect vision or cause blindness in some cases. CRISPR gene editing can eliminate mutated genes in the DNA and replace them with nonmutated versions.
Because this gene editing process can be precise and target specific cells, it may benefit people with inherited genes that cause vision loss.
CRISPR gene editing has successfully corrected visual loss in mice with retinitis pigmentosa. Clinical trials on humans are currently investigating its use in correcting a form of inherited blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). Researchers have traced genetic abnormalities in LCA to mitochondrial DNA.
CRISPR gene editing has potential benefits in correcting some medical conditions due to inherited mutated genes. It is a very new potential treatment, so experts are currently studying how it may help people with various conditions.
- Stargardt disease, which is a genetic condition that causes vision loss
- Usher syndrome, which is a genetic condition due to abnormalities of the inner ear
- choroideremia, which is a genetic disorder that causes progressive vision loss
Despite these possible benefits, the use of CRISPR has inherent risks and potential adverse effects.
CRISPR gene editing process may cause alterations in the DNA that can result in distortions in cellular structure and function.
Here are some of the potential risks and complications of CRISPR gene editing:
- Gene editing errors: CRISPR may accidentally insert or cut genes in the wrong regions of DNA. These errors could result in cellular abnormalities or increase the risk of diseases.
- Inactivation of cancer-fighting mechanisms: Medical experts have raised some concerns that the CRISPR process could interfere with the cellular mechanisms that repair DNA damage and protect against cancer.
- Unethical use: Medical authorities have also expressed concerns that some individuals may exploit the use of CRISPR gene editing. For instance, there could be unethical alterations or the enhancement of personal traits or behavior.
In view of these possible risks of CRISPR gene editing, caution is crucial for safety, ethical, and social reasons.
Individuals with a genetic disease may consider using CRISPR gene editing as a solution because of its potential benefits. However, here are some questions to ask a doctor:
- Is CRISPR gene editing appropriate for treating the condition?
- What are the steps and duration of the procedure?
- What are the potential side effects or complications of gene editing and the chances they might occur?
- How will gene editing permanently or temporarily affect the cells and DNA?
- How will gene editing affect the person’s overall future health and reproduction?
CRISPR gene editing is a revolutionary procedure for removing and replacing mutated genes with nonmutated genes.
Several animal research studies have shown this technique to be helpful in resolving some genetic diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa.
Despite its potential benefits, medical experts have expressed concerns about the safety and unethical use of CRISPR. Therefore, cautious use is critical, and more research evidence is necessary to conclude its safety and efficacy in humans.