The continuing story of gene therapy

The first actual use of gene therapy began in September 1990, with the treatment of a child suffering from a rare genetic immunodeficiency disease caused by the lack of the enzyme adenosine deaminase (ADA). ADA-deficient people have persistent infections and high risk of early cancer, and many die in their first months of life. The much-publicized bubble boy, David, had this disease. David lived for nine years in a plastic chamber to prevent contact with viruses, which his immune system could...

The beginnings of gene therapy

The story of the race to carry out gene therapy is engagingly told in the book Altered Fates, written by two prizewinning journalists, Jeff Lyon and Peter Gorner. Like James Watson's 1968 book, The Double Helix, the account makes interesting reading not only for its descriptions of important scientific discoveries, but also for its portaits of the personalities involved, and its revelations about the behind-the-scenes politics of high-profile scientific research. The steps leading to the first...