Date Published: August 17, 2004
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Partial Text: When gene therapy was introduced nearly fifteen years ago, it was widely hailed as a panacea. Since many diseases have a genetic component, the hope was that gene therapy could replace compromised genes with healthy versions to treat everything from inherited disorders like cystic fibrosis to cancer and HIV. That great promise was quashed when a teenager suffering from a rare hereditary liver disorder died after participating in an experimental gene therapy trial in 1999: four days after being injected with millions of viruses engineered to deliver healthy genes to his liver, Jesse Gelsinger died. It seems the virus, derived from an adenovirus, targeted his immune cells rather than his liver cells, which triggered an immune response against the virus, resulting in massive organ failure.