A new feature in Wired highlights scientific advances that may make gene therapy much safer and more widespread. But it's important to check whether the regulation of clinical trials has advanced equally well.
Science can make blind mice see again and deaf mice hear — now scent-deprived mice can sniff their surroundings and smell for the first time, after a new gene therapy. It may be a while before this treatment percolates up to humans, but it’s a sign that gene therapy could restore smell in this rare but disorder.
Future genetic therapy could be as simple as applying a topical lotion, with nanoscale compounds soaking through your epidermis to tweak your DNA. This new class of nucleic acid structures could guard against some types of skin cancer, according to researchers at Northwestern University.
Proponents of genetic medicine say DNA sequencing is the future of medicine and that soon every truly sick person will have his or her genome sequenced. Critics cite privacy concerns and note that genetic mutations and variations don’t necessarily lead to medical outcomes. Whatever the position, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t good news: the first child – plagued by undiagnosable illness – has been saved by DNA sequencing.
After more than a decade of work, scientists have completed a 3-D atomic-scale map of a virus that causes the common cold. It's the largest virus ever mapped. The map could help scientists re-engineer the virus for gene therapy, as well as to create possible treatments for cancer and other ailments. Robotic systems, an advanced x-ray, and years of patience made it possible.
Steroids seem so last-decade, now that gene therapy has caught the eye of athletes looking for a competitive edge. But scientists warn that gene therapy still represents a high-risk, experimental practice even within medicine, and that athletes could endanger their lives by giving it a try.