Over time, researchers have devised a number of ways to manipulate the genetic activity within cells, often by giving them new DNA or RNA instructions to follow.
A gene-editing technology, known as CRISPR-Cas9, could make it possible to finesse these changes by revising a part of the genetic code a cell already possesses — akin to rewriting the original directions, rather than adding new instructions alongside them.
The FDA has yet to approve any gene therapy using CRISPR, but clinical trials have begun testing a few of these experimental treatments in people. [Pediatric oncologist Stephan] Grupp is involved in one such study focused on sickle cell disease, a painful genetic disorder resulting from a faulty version of the protein hemoglobin in red blood cells.
[P]reliminary studies with mice and monkeys have given [neurovirologist Kamel] Khalili hope that one day, a CRISPR-based gene therapy could accomplish a decades-old goal: curing HIV infection.
“I think it’s long, long overdue,” he says.