Since the mid-1900s, medical researchers have dreamed of fixing genetic disorders by supplying people with working versions of genes. By the late 1990s, that dream–known as gene therapy–seemed very, very close. Scientists were developing engineered viruses that would infect patients with DNA that would allow their bodies to make the proteins they needed to survive.
But then, in 1999, a young man who had volunteered for a trial died. The whole field of gene therapy went into a tailspin. Only in recent years has it recovered.
I’ve written a story for Wired about that turnaround, focusing on the career of the scientist who oversaw that fateful 1999 trial, James Wilson. For the past fourteen years Wilson been hunting for better viruses for gene therapy, and his viruses are now involved in some of the most promising research for treating diseases ranging from hemophilia to blindness. To find out more about Wilson and gene therapy, check out “The Fall and Rise of Gene Therapy.”