Gene therapy replaces a faulty gene or adds a new gene in an attempt to cure disease or improve your body's ability to fight disease.
Gene therapy involves altering the genes inside your body's cells in an effort to treat or stop disease.
Genes contain your DNA — the code that controls much of your body's form and function, from making you grow taller to regulating your body systems. Genes that don't work properly can cause disease.
Gene therapy replaces a faulty gene or adds a new gene in an attempt to cure disease or improve your body's ability to fight disease. Gene therapy holds promise for treating a wide range of diseases, such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, diabetes, hemophilia and AIDS.
Researchers are still studying how and when to use gene therapy. Currently, in the United States, gene therapy is available only as part of a clinical trial.
Gene therapy is used to correct defective genes in order to cure a disease or help your body better fight disease.
Researchers are investigating several ways to do this, including:
Gene therapy has some potential risks. A gene can't easily be inserted directly into your cells. Rather, it usually has to be delivered using a carrier, called a vector.
The most common gene therapy vectors are viruses because they can recognize certain cells and carry genetic material into the cells' genes. Researchers remove the original disease-causing genes from the viruses, replacing them with the genes needed to stop disease.
This technique presents the following risks:
The gene therapy clinical trials underway in the U.S. are closely monitored by the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health to ensure that patient safety issues are a top priority during research.
Currently, the only way for you to receive gene therapy is to participate in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are research studies that help doctors determine whether a gene therapy approach is safe for people. They also help doctors understand the effects of gene therapy on the body.
Your specific procedure will depend on the disease you have and the type of gene therapy being used.
For example, in one type of gene therapy:
Viruses aren't the only vectors that can be used to carry altered genes into your body's cells. Other vectors being studied in clinical trials include:
The possibilities of gene therapy hold much promise. Clinical trials of gene therapy in people have shown some success in treating certain diseases, such as:
But several significant barriers stand in the way of gene therapy becoming a reliable form of treatment, including:
Gene therapy continues to be a very important and active area of research aimed at developing new, effective treatments for a variety of diseases.