Can These Scientists Do the Impossible and Cure Cystic Fibrosis For Good?

It could be a story out of a spy novel:

While coded messages are being passed, an outsider attempts to infiltrate and disrupt communication. Part of the mission involves smuggling important equipment across borders, with success hardly guaranteed. But we’re not talking about Cold War-era espionage (or even modern day US-Russia relations, for that matter).

No, we’re talking cystic fibrosis and the possibility of a cure…or at least a treatment that can sustain remission.

CF is a genetic disorder caused by mutations of the CFTR gene. The CFTR gene, like a briefcase handcuffed to your wrist, contains the codes that allow chloride ions and water to escape from cells. And no, not prison cells; human cells. The building blocks of life. But for CF patients, that briefcase, and the codes it contains, have been replaced with an imposter, and the communication has gone haywire.

Now, according to ScienceDaily, scientists at the Laboratory for Molecular Virology and Gene Therapy at KU Leuven, Belgium, are optimistic about a treatment to restore the normal exchange of those chloride ions and water.

By using a relatively harmless virus, an expert at infiltrating cells, scientists think they can smuggle the proper coding back to where it belongs.

So far, preliminary testing has shown positive results. Mice affected with CF, and the cultured cells from humans with CF, have responded positively to this medical black ops mission. See results here. But Professor Zeger Debyser of KU Leuven cautions patience.

“Developing a treatment based on gene therapy will take years of work. For one thing, our study did not involve actual human beings, only mice and patient-derived cell cultures,” he says. “But gene therapy clearly is a promising candidate for further research towards a cure for cystic fibrosis.”

So while time is still a factor, a cure for CF might not be a Mission: Impossible after all.


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James Ernest Cassady

James Ernest Cassady

Though "Ernest" is a family name that's been passed down for generations, James truly earned his middle moniker when, at the age of five, he told his mother that "laughing is stupid unless EVERYBODY is happy." Since then, the serious little bastard has been on a mission to highlight the world's shortcomings (and hopefully correct them). In addition to his volunteer work at hospitals and animal shelters, James also enjoys documentaries and the work of William Faulkner. He is originally from Oklahoma.

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