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Delivering the Goods

Gene therapy without the virus

Gene therapy has been on a roller coaster in recent years. Experiments in adding genes directly to patients' cells have shown promising signs, but the technical and clinical momentum has been drained repeatedly by bad results. These include the death of a young man in 1999 and two recent cases of cancer in children. The clinical trials in these instances used inactivated viruses as vectors to shuttle genes into patients' cells. Scientists hold those viruses to be partly to blame for the devastating outcomes. So, many researchers are focusing attention on ways to introduce DNA into a patient without using a virus.

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