Review by Alexandra Witze
Gene therapy, long heralded as the savior of those suffering from rare genetic disorders, has a lot to thank Corey Haas for. Haas was 8 years old when, in 2008, doctors injected engineered viruses into his eyes in an attempt to cure his hereditary blindness. It worked, and that success swept away shadows that had haunted gene therapy for nearly two decades.
Genetics writer Ricki Lewis uses Haas’ story to bookend the checkered history of gene therapy—the idea of replacing a defective gene with a working one in order to knock out disease. In theory, it sounds clever. In practice, it has been fiendishly difficult. Most notably, 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger died in a 1999 clinical trial of a gene therapy treatment for a nonfatal liver disease. His death temporarily shuddered the field to a halt. Lewis clearly lays out how far gene therapy has come since then. Among other things,