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What is Base Editing? 

Dec 17, 2022

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Today’s edition of our Current Affairs will comprise a discussion on Base Editing. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.

For Prelims: General Science

Base Editing, T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), T-cells, Significance of Base Editing 

For Mains: G.S Paper-III 

About Base Editing and its significance in the health sector, T-cells, T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia 

Probable Question

Describe briefly what Base editing is and how is it helping in the health sector?

Context

Recently a teenage girl who was suffering from T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), a kind of blood cancer, has become the first person in the world to benefit from an experimental cancer treatment called base editing.

About T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL)

  • T-ALL affects the stem cells in the bone marrow that produce a particular kind of white blood cells (WBC) called T lymphocytes (T cells). 
  • These cells provide a person immunity by killing cells carrying infections, activating other immune cells, and regulating the immune response.
  • At least 20% of these WBC are atypical, as they accumulate in the bone marrow, they crowd out “good” WBCs and weaken the immune system. 
  • These unhealthy cells can also accumulate in other parts of the body like the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes.
  • T-ALL is found in both children and adults, but its incidence decreases with age.

Traditional ways of treating T-ALL

  • It is similar to that of any leukemia, i.e. chemotherapy and stem cell/bone marrow transplant. 
  • Doctors will first administer multiple rounds of chemotherapy as per the individual’s age and general health. This either kills cancerous cells or stops them from further dividing.
  • This either kills the cancerous cells or stops them from further dividing. The exact schedule is guided by an individual’s age and general health.
  • In case of failure of chemotherapy, doctors conduct bone-marrow transplants. 
  • Chemotherapy/radiation therapy not only kills the cancerous cells but also wrecks an individual’s immunity system along with it. Thus, patients receive an infusion of healthy bone marrow cells that will hopefully multiply and restore immunity.
  • The survival rate for children of overall treatment for T-ALL is 85% after receiving treatment for five years.

Read More: World Health Organisation’s Pandemic Treaty

About Base Editing

  • As alphabets make words that carry meaning, similarly bases are the language of life. The billions of bases in our DNA spell out the instruction manual for our body.
  • Scientists have utilized the advances in genetic technology and have been able to zoom into a precise part of the genetic code. 
  • Scientists have altered the molecular structure of just one base, effectively changing its genetic instructions.
  • In base-editing, a new type of T-cell is created from a healthy donor that neither attack other cells nor kill each other, cells that survive chemotherapy.
  • Significance: 
    • Genetic manipulation is a “very fast-moving area of science” with “enormous potential” across a range of diseases.
    • The success of base-editing will have a positive impact on the research that is conducted and ultimately benefit many patients.

News Source: The Indian Express

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-health/base-editing-groundbreaking-tech-teenagers-cancer-8322842/

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