Summary: Human gene therapy trials are reporting promising results, according to yesterday’s update by Liz Parrish, the CEO of BioViva and patient zero in a test of gene therapy on her own body. [This article first appeared on LongevityFacts. Author: Brady Hartman. ]
Liz Parrish is known as “the woman who wants to genetically engineer you.”
On February 11, Liz Parrish gave us an update on the progress made in the last year with human gene therapy. Parrish spoke at an online video conference sponsored by the London Futurists.
Parrish is the Founder and CEO of BioViva Sciences USA Inc, a biotech firm committed to extending healthy human lifespan using gene therapy.
Moreover, Parrish is patient zero in a trial using gene therapy for rejuvenation, using her company’s experimental treatments on her own body. You’ll read more about this later on.
Gene therapy is in the spotlight as doctors have used gene therapy in clinical trials to reverse hemophilia, restore sight to the blind, and reprogram the body’s own T cells to attack tumors, and more. New gene-editing tools like CRISPR make it easy to snip out troublesome strands of DNA and replace them with new code that fixes the genetic mutations that cause disease.
Here’s the direct youtube link, in case it doesn’t load.
Parrish Update on Gene Therapy
During the London Futurists conference, Parrish spoke of the successes researchers have made in bringing gene therapy trials to the clinic, advancements made in the CRISPR gene editing tool, as well as gene therapy clinical trials in the pipeline.
Gene Therapy Successes
The past year has seen many successful gene therapy clinical trials, as Parrish says
“As far as what we saw in trials, we kind of had our mind blown, and this is what we hope to see. We have over 2,000 people now that have AAV gene therapy in their bodies – I’m one of them, very happy to say.”
There are many ways to edit genes. However, CRISPR and viral vectors are the two leading techniques. CRISPR gets all the attention while viral vectors see far more action. This is because viral vectors are tried and true. Most gene therapy clinical trials rely on viral vectors to deliver the desired genetic payload. One of the more popular viral vectors is the adenovirus viral vector (AAV), which has been used in gene therapy trials to hemophilia B. Moreover, the FDA recently approved a gene therapy to treat blindness. AAV has demonstrated excellent results in gene therapy trials, as Parrish says,
“We’re seeing a very good safety profile. We’re seeing the control of disease. We’re seeing inherited blindness be cured in one case and that’s going to expand into a myriad of other inherited blindness conditions. We saw the first control of hemophilia B, which is very exciting.”
Parrish adds that gene therapy has improved and become much more efficient in the past decade, as Parrish points out,
“and not only did we see control in that but compared to therapies that were done over ten years ago we’re seeing up to a hundred and twenty times less gene therapy needed to control those diseases, so that’s super exciting.”
Advancements in CRISPR Gene Editing
Parrish also highlighted two improvements in CRISPR gene editing, including the ability to use CRISPR to turn genes on and off, without having to cut DNA. Moreover, Parrish pointed out the new base editing technology that allows gene engineers to edit one letter in the DNA sequence at a time. As Parrish says,
“One of the most exciting things, of course, came out of the Cas-CRISPR system, so the Cas system gives us the ability to turn genes on and off that are already in our genome. So, this is pretty exciting technology – instead of inserting a gene we might be able to modulate the genes in our system, and it gets us a little bit closer to doing that. We also saw the advances of the Cas system controlling one letter at a time. So, one letter within the gene fixing mutations that’s pretty exciting.”
Gene Therapy Clinical Trials in the Pipeline.
“we saw the beginning of a Phase 1 safety trial for Parkinson’s disease.”
The star of the show is CAR T cell therapy. A rapidly emerging immunotherapy approach, CAR T cell therapy involves collecting and using patients’ own immune cells to treat their tumor. To perform the procedure, technicians first draw blood from the patients and then separate out the T cells. Next, scientists genetically engineer the T cells to produce receptors on their surface called chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs.
Parrish points out that CAR T cell therapy is a shining example of the use of gene therapy, saying,
“I believe that China right now has nine clinical trials coming up to tackle cancer with also t-cells.”
Passionate Advocate for Gene Therapy
While genetic engineering shows great promise, with many gene therapies approved, the field is being held back. The US FDA has been slow to approve clinical trials due to the high risks of tinkering with a person’s DNA.
Liz Parrish wants to change this stick in the mud attitude.
In public presentations, Parrish talks about the nine hallmarks of aging – things such as epigenetic changes and telomere shortening – that gene therapy could address, leading to a longer lifespan and a dramatic reduction in the chronic diseases of aging, such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Parrish advocates fast-tracking life-saving gene therapy technology. Parrish argues that more than a hundred thousand people die each day while waiting for government regulatory agencies to approve treatments that can save lives.
Putting Her Life on the Line
In 2015, Parrish traveled to a clinic in Colombia and had herself injected with two gene therapies designed to lengthen her telomeres and improve muscle function. Parrish’s self-experimentation drew criticism from the mainstream research community.
Six months after the procedure, Parrish announced that this treatment reversed 20 years of telomere shortening, as well as increasing her muscle mass while decreasing intramuscular fat.
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Cover Photo: Liz Parrish during a conference last year. Credit: BioViva.
“Reversing Aging – 2018 update.” London Futurists via YouTube. February 11, 2018.
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