Gene Editing and Recovery from Radiation


Welcome to the talking biotech podcast. Weekly podcast about agriculture medicine with an emphasis on biotechnology and the good things we can do for people and the planet names kevin volta. I'm a professor and a podcast host. Who cares about science communication mostly around the area of biotechnology. So today we wanted to talk about something interesting. Radiation and radiation has many places in biology. Of course our resistance to it. The problems that can be caused from it as well as its use as a therapeutic agent used to induce genetic variability when we do plant breeding but has some deleterious downsides and they've represented barriers both for remediation of radioactive. Waste as well as if there's issues with the side effects of radiation therapies for cancer. So i was excited to learn about some work. That's happening. The innovative genomics institute out at the university of california berkeley. There's work that's gone. Underway under darpa funding to attempt to use gene editing to solve some of the problems associated with radiation exposure. Mostly in acute radiation sickness. and so. today we're going to talk to dr feodor urnov. He's a professor in molecular and cell biology department at the university of california berkeley as well as the director for translation technology at the innovative genomics institute associated with berkeley. So welcome to the podcast. Dr urnov thank you for having. This is really a pleasure. I was really excited to read about this. Because it seems like such a cool project that's long overdue and i can certainly understand arpaio's interest in this. I tried to frame a little bit of the problem ahead of time. But could you give me a better explanation of. What is the problem with acute radiation sickness. And where do we see it across. The bay from the berkeley campus is one of the best if not the best teaching hospital in america. Ucsf in the chair of radiation oncology. Dr mary fung has told me how frustrating it is to have. Her patients succumb to cancer of the abdomen and of the pelvis. Oh things like pancreatic liver you. Try a variant. Despite the fact that she has a powerful weapon to pure those cure is a big word and the weapon is radiation as you pointed out as all technologies radiation has had a positive side in the negative side the negative side. Of course we think about weapons. We think about radiation disasters such as mobile in in the ussr. Where i went grow was born and raised three mile island Shema but then on the positive side radiation is used to determine how our teeth are doing or our lungs are doing which is particularly timely given. What's happening right now. In our nation and has also a really really powerful medicine to cure cancer. The reason it's not more widely available is what's technically known as dose limiting city and in english. That means you cannot give enough of the cure before it side effects overpower its benefits. So in dr funk's practice the physician. So i'm regurgitating. What i learned from her and other had the honor to collaborate with. She has a patient with a with a major cancer of the abdomen. Or or the pelvic area she can irradiate the tumor and eradicated. The patients do not recover because tissues that are inevitably also effective so the gut and the bone. Marrow where are aquatic stem cells live are irreversibly damaged by the radiation itself. So the patients Die off either lethal diarrhea which cannot be stopped using anything

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