Genome editing and stem cell therapy pave the path for new treatment of sickle-cell disease
Sickle-cell disease (SCD), also known as sickle-cell anemia, is a hereditary blood disorder characterized by the presence of abnormal hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein found in red blood cells. This devastating hematologic disease affects millions of children worldwide. Currently the only available cure is an allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) which is limited by the scarcity of fully-matched donors. SCD is caused by a single nucleotide mutation in the beta-globin gene. Correction of this genetic defect would provide a cure for the disease. Two recent murine studies have provided proof of principle for such a strategy by correcting the mutation in hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) using genome editing techniques. With transformative advances being made in the genome editing field, effective and precise manipulation of cellular genomes is becoming highly feasible. Genome editing techniques in combination with stem cell therapy should provide a safe and curative treatment of various genetic diseases such as SCD.