Media Availability: The coming of age of gene therapy: A review of the past and path forwardJanuary 11, 2018
After three decades of hopes tempered by setbacks, gene therapy--the process of treating a disease by modifying a person's DNA--is no longer the future of medicine, but is part of the present-day clinical treatment toolkit. The Jan. 12 issue of the journal Science provides an in-depth and timely review of the key developments that have led to several successful gene therapy treatments for patients with serious medical conditions.
Co-authored by Cynthia E. Dunbar, M.D., senior investigator at the Hematology Branch of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, the article also discusses emerging genome editing technologies. According to Dunbar and her colleagues, these methods, including the CRISPR/Cas9 approach, would provide ways to correct or alter an individual's genome with precision, which should translate into broader and more effective gene therapy approaches.
Gene therapy is designed to introduce genetic material into cells to compensate for or correct abnormal genes. If a mutated gene causes damage to or spurs the disappearance of a necessary protein, for example, gene therapy may be able to introduce a normal copy of the gene to restore the function of that protein.
The authors focused on the approaches that have delivered the best outcomes in gene therapy so far: 1) direct in vivo administration of viral vectors, or the use of viruses to deliver the therapeutic genes into human cells; and 2) the transfer of genetically engineered blood or bone marrow stem cells from a patient, modified in a lab, then injected back into the same patient.
Originally envisioned as a treatment solely for inherited disorders, gene therapy is now being applied to acquired conditions such as cancer. For example, the engineering of lymphocytes, white blood cells, that can be used in the targeted killing of cancer cells.
In 2017, a steady stream of encouraging clinical results showed progress in gene therapies for hemophilia, sickle-cell disease, blindness, several serious
inherited neurodegenerative disorders, an array of other genetic diseases, and multiple cancers of the bone marrow and lymph nodes.
Three gene therapies have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the past year, and many more are under active clinical investigation. The authors looked to the future of gene therapies, and the challenges of delivering these complex treatments to patients.
Much of this research has been funded by NIH, and key advances took place in the NIH Clinical Center.
ARTICLE: Dunbar et al., Gene therapy comes of age. Science 359, eaan4672 (2018)
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Related Gene Therapy Articles:
Drugs that are used in cancer therapy to erase epigenetic alterations in cancer cells simultaneously promote the production of countless mysterious gene transcripts, scientists from the German Cancer Research Center now report in Nature Genetics.
A single treatment giving life-long protection from severe allergies such as asthma could be made possible by immunology research at The University of Queensland.
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A team headed by Professor Albert Rizvanov, director of the Gene and Cell Technologies Open Lab, created a gene therapy drug that encodes growth factors for the stimulation of blood vessel and bone formation.
A Washington State University researcher has developed a way to reduce the development of cancer cells that are an infrequent but dangerous byproduct of gene therapy.
A new gene therapy could be used to prevent the loss of muscle mass and physical strength associated with advanced cancer
The ability to switch disease-causing genes on and off remains a dream for many physicians, research scientists and patients.
A team from the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste has obtained very promising results by applying gene therapy to glioblastoma.
Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of Bioviva USA Inc. has become the first human being to be successfully rejuvenated by gene therapy, after her own company's experimental therapies reversed 20 years of normal telomere shortening.
Scientists in the Barabas group at EMBL have increased the efficiency of a genome-engineering tool called Sleeping Beauty, which is showing promise in clinical trials for leukemia and lymphoma immunotherapies.
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