CRISPR (pronounced “crisper”) is the shorthand term used to refer to the gene editing technology that, since 2013, has revolutionised the biotech world. In particular, CRISPR now enables genes to be edited with a much greater level of precision and flexibility.
This has generated much excitement throughout the scientific community and, as a result, a number of clinical trials involving humans are now underway.
These trials are primarily aimed at tackling various forms of cancer though it has been demonstrated that CRISPR has a wide range of potential uses.
Based on a paper published by the Longevity Science Panel entitled "What is Ageing? Can we delay it?" the Working Party has sought to establish a number of associated catalysts in order to facilitate varioususes of this work.
In particular, the paper aims to "provide an interesting introduction to the topic and be a starting point for debate about emerging age-delaying interventions and their likely impact". This is very compatible with the Longevity Catalysts framework to the extent it seeks to identify what anti-ageing developments are currently on the horizon.
The working Party would like to thank Joseph Lu for his contribution to the formulation of this catalyst.
3. Introduction of plain cigarette packaging in the UK
Classification: Future, Medical, Social
Around 18% of all UK deaths are attributable to smoking and around 1 in 5 Britons is currently a smoker. Any measure which is effective at reducing smoking prevalence may thus have significant implications for future mortality rates in the UK.
One such possible future step is the introduction of plain cigarette packaging. This is widely expected in the UK over the relatively short term following an independent report which found that similar legislation in Australia has had a positive impact.
Update: January 2015 - Legislation brought forward.
MPs in the House of Commons are now set to vote on this issue before the May 2015 General Election with introduction in England tabled for May 2016.
Update: March 2015 - Legislation approved.
MPs in the House of Commons voted in favour (367 - 113) of the introduction of standardised packaging from May 2016.
The ongoing discovery of biomarkers which can either indicate likelihood of developing a future disease - or even rapildly diagnose the presence of a disease - is an important current theme in biomedical research.
Biomarkers (short for biological markers) are objective measurements used to perform clinical assessments and predict health states in individuals. At the basic level, they include blood pressure and resting heart rate.
Update: August 2015 - Biomarker for pancreatic cancer added.
KRAS is a human gene which is mutated in around 30% of all human cancers but around 90% and 40% of pancreatic and lung cancers respectively. Successful targeting of KRAS mutations therefore has significant implications for reducing future cancer related mortality rates.
Classification: Future, Medical, Social, Political
Whilst genetic screening for certian key mutations is currently available, it by no means yet (a) universally known about (b) widely affordable (c) socially accepted. In particular, there also exist a nimber of associated ethical and moral questions.
A "Polypill" describes a daily pill which may contain blood pressure lowering drugs, statins, aspirin and folic acid. A recent small trial showed that a daily Polypill regimen reduced blood pressure by 11% and cholesterol by 39% for over 50’s (Wald et al 2012).
Categorisation: Future, Medical, Social, Political
Seasonal flu vaccines rapidly become redundant as the influenza virus continually evolves year on year. The development of a universal flu vaccine would effectively simultaneously target every form of flu including new strains.