THE bouts of terrible pain began further back than Victoria Gray can remember. Her grandmother would try to ease the discomfort with hot towels and medication, but it was fruitless. “I was born having to endure pain,” she says. “It was a life that I felt wasn’t worth living.”
Gray has an inherited condition known as sickle cell disease, which causes red blood cells to form an abnormal “sickle” shape that can block capillaries, causing pain and sometimes organ damage. As Gray aged, her pain got worse. On one occasion, she temporarily lost the use of her arms and legs. By her 30s, Gray required in-home care. So, when she was offered the chance to become the first person to receive an experimental CRISPR gene-editing treatment, she took it.
Today, four years after this took place, she no longer has episodes of pain and works full time. “Now my life is full of optimism,” she says.
The treatment involved will probably be given the green light by regulators in the US, UK and Europe soon, which will make it the first CRISPR therapy to be approved. It won’t be the last.
There is now no doubt that this technology – used to edit genes – can treat and potentially even cure a huge range of conditions. The only question is, just how far can it go? Will it be an expensive therapy used only occasionally? Or will it become so widely used that many of us will be getting a CRISPR jab to, say, lower our cholesterol levels and enable us to live longer, healthier lives?
CRISPR gene editing exploded onto the …