Genetic Therapies Benefits and Risks
In the future, genetic therapies may be used to prevent, treat, or cure certain inherited disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, hemophilia, beta thalassemia, and sickle cell disease. They also may be used to treat cancers or infections, including HIV.
Genetic therapies that are currently approved by the FDA are available for people who have Leber congenital amaurosis, a rare inherited condition that leads to blindness. CAR T-cell therapy is FDA approved for people who have blood cancers, such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
Genetic therapies hold promise to treat many diseases, but they are still new approaches to treatment and may have risks. Potential risks could include certain types of cancer, allergic reactions, or damage to organs or tissues if an injection is involved.
Recent advances have made genetic therapies much safer. Better safety has resulted in the FDA approving some gene transfer therapies for clinical use in the United States. There have been a few clinical studies on genome editing, but the approach is much newer than gene transfer. Researchers are still studying the risks.
The National Institutes of Health, which includes the NHLBI, does not perform or fund studies on genome editing targeting sperm, eggs, or embryos in humans. These changes would be passed on to the patient’s children and could have unanticipated effects.