Researchers use gene editing with CRISPR to treat lethal lung diseases before birth
Using CRISPR gene editing, a team from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Penn Medicine have thwarted a lethal lung disease in an animal model in which a harmful mutation causes death within hours after birth. This proof-of-concept study, published today in Science Translational Medicine, showed that in utero editing could be a promising new approach for treating lung diseases before birth. "The developing fetushas many innate properties that make it an attractive recipient for therapeutic gene editing," said study co-leader William H. Peranteau, MD, an investigator at CHOP's Center for Fetal Research, and a pediatric and fetal surgeon in CHOP's Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. "Furthermore, the ability to cure or mitigate a disease via gene editing in mid- to late gestation before birth and the onset of irreversible pathology is very exciting. This is particularly true for diseases that affect the lungs, whose function becomes dramatically more important at the time of birth." The lung conditions the team is hoping to solve—congenital diseases such as surfactant protein deficiency, cystic fibrosis, and alpha-1 antitrypsin—are characterized by respiratory failure at birth or chronic lung disease with few options for therapies. About 22 percent of all pediatric hospital admissions are because of respiratory disorders, and congenital causes of respiratory diseases are often lethal, despite advances in care and a deeper understanding of their molecular causes. Because the lung is a barrier organ in direct contact with the outside environment, targeted delivery to correct defective genes is an attractive therapy.