Can accurate DNA editing stop the formation and growth of tumors?

UC Davis
Davis, California
Open Access
Raised of $2,000 Goal
Ended on 9/27/14
Campaign Ended
  • $950
  • 48%
  • Finished
    on 9/27/14

About This Project

Cancer is a disease that affects us all. I believe that genetic editing can be used to halt tumor growth and cease the formation of new tumors in all organisms able to utilize the system, but I need your help. Genetic editing methods, like CRISPR, have been shown to be effective and accurate in plants, mice, zebrafish, and human cells. While this system has been used to edit individual genes, it has not been used in any anti-tumor experiments.

Ask the Scientists

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What is the context of this research?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with CRISPR, this link will help-
I believe that CRISPR holds the key to curing diseases that result from genetic alterations during one's life. A basal-cell carcinoma, for example, starts from a single genetic mutation in a single cell that proliferates to form a tumor. The experiment I'm planning works in a parallel manner by inserting DNA into the host plant's DNA to cause tumor formation. By programming the CRISPR element to seek and destroy the tumor-causing DNA segment, we will be able to the stop cancer right in its tracks.

What is the significance of this project?

This is a straight-up proof of concept for the application of the CRISPR system to treat cancers that result from a genetic basis. Insight into how the system will perform in relation to cancer removal is critical in order develop future research into human applications. Starting these experiments in the model organism Arabidopsis will allow us to more easily understand the complex mechanisms by which the CRISPR system operates and how it effects the whole organism.

What are the goals of the project?

1) Grow at least 100 plants
2) Infect those plants with wild type Agrobacteria
3) Design a CRISPR/Cas payload with necessary primers to seek and destroy genetic elements implanted by Agrobacteria into the plants DNA.
4) Integrate the payload into a benign, virulent plant virus (such as modified tobacco mosaic virus) and inject into the living plants affected by tumors.
5) Wait and see if expression of implanted viral DNA can cease tumor growth and prevent future tumor formation.
6) Publish results Open Access


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I plan to infect the model organism Arabidopsis with Agrobacteria in order to cause the formation of galls (tumors). I then plan to use a virulent viral vector to insert a CRISPR/Cas payload with the necessary primers into the genome of every cell of the plant. Expression of CRISPR/Cas system will then cause breaks in the DNA at the specified primer locations to effectively and permanently silence tumor production in all parts of the plant. I will have to perform sequencing to ensure I correctly program the seek and destroy target code and to show that the system did indeed work.

Meet the Team

Thomas Irvine
Thomas Irvine

Team Bio

Hi! My name is Thomas Irvine and I am a gregarious plant researcher currently practicing my craft at University of California, Davis in sunny California. I originally hail from a little city in Southern California called Simi Valley. After graduating high school with honors, I became a nuclear reactor operator in US Navy. After my enlistment, I used my GI Bill to go straight to college. While I was in my first year of college my mother, who was undergoing chemotherapy, passed away from her cancer. Her passing gave me the focus to get where I am today.

I used to have more hobbies before I decided to become a scientist, but now in my spare time I bake, cook, compose music, take my dog for walks, and work on my mother's 1966 Ford Mustang.

Thomas Irvine

Hello interested individual!

My name is Thomas, I am from Simi Valley California, and am the right researcher for you! I first realized I would have a career in sciences when I was in grammar school. I won the sixth grade science fair (cliche, right?) and went on to get presidential recognition for my little project. I have always enjoyed school. I was one of the weird kids who wanted summer to end so school could start, and so I knew that one day I would attend college. There was only one problem. My parents did not have the money to put me through and I did not qualify for any substantial scholarships. And so, before was able to go to college, my life took a detour into the US Navy. I was a nuclear reactor operator (for power plants, not bombs) and an electronics technician for four years, but before I could finish my enlistment I broke my back. After my surgery and recovery I was discharged, and I returned to California. I used my GI bill to pay for the college education I had sought after for so long. Unfortunately, my elation did not last long. While I was attending my first semester, my mother passed away after a long war with cancer. I knew she wouldn't want her death to affect my studies, and so I didn't let it. I tried even harder. Was it difficult to power past the emotions I should have been facing? Yes. Was it unhealthy to bottle up my feelings? Maybe... ask my therapist. But ultimately her passing gave me a goal and something to work for. I wanted to make her proud, and I hope she is.

Additional Information

My mother and I. She passed away more than 4 years ago from highly metastasized cancer. She is my inspiration and motivation to accomplish great things for humanity, like she did.

Project Backers

  • 15Backers
  • 48%Funded
  • $950Total Donations
  • $63.33Average Donation
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