Editing the gene encoding the granulin protein reduces risk of liver cancer associated with a kind of liver fluke
In East Asia, infection with the parasitic worm, or fluke, Opisthorchis viverrini (pictured) is a significant health problem, affecting around 10 million people in Thailand and Laos. Colonising the liver, this parasite is especially hazardous as it strongly raises the risk of developing cholangiocarcinoma, cancer of the bile ducts. Infection is likely to stimulate tumour development in several ways, including through proteins secreted by the parasites, such as granulin. To investigate its role, researchers used a gene editing technique, known as CRISPR-Cas9, to mutate the granulin gene in young parasitic worms. When hamsters were infected with these modified worms, the parasites reproduced successfully, but the hosts’ livers displayed reduced symptoms associated with bile duct cancer. Besides confirming the importance of parasitic granulin, this study also demonstrates the effectiveness of gene editing techniques in this type of parasitic worm, opening the door for future research on other relevant genes.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.