MIT Scientists Develop A Rapid Modeling Technique for Cancer Gene Mutations

The group, led by Koch Institute director Tyler Jacks, used CRISPR to generate mutant genes that were then packaged into enteroviruses that were used to infect target organs in mice. This is a much faster process than the traditional method that need crossing genetically-engineered mice.

Sequencing the genomes of tumor cells has revealed thousands of genetic mutations linked with cancer. However, sifting through this deluge of information to figure out which of these mutations actually drive cancer growth has proven to be a tedious, time-consuming process.

MIT researchers have now developed a new way to model the effects of these genetic mutations in mice. Their approach, based on the genome-editing technique known as CRISPR, is much faster than existing strategies, which require genetically engineering mice that carry the cancerous mutations.

“It’s a very rapid and very adaptable approach to make models,” says Thales Papagiannakopoulos, a postdoc at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and one of the lead authors of the paper, which appears in the Oct. 22 online edition of Nature. “With a lot of these mutations, we have no idea what their role is in tumor progression. If we can actually understand the biology, we can then go in and try targeted therapeutic approaches.”

MIT press release: