Gene Editing and Genetic Lung Disease. Basic Research Meets Therapeutic Application

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Although our understanding of the genetics and pathology of congenital lung diseases such as surfactant protein deficiency, cystic fibrosis, and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is extensive, treatment options are lacking. Because the lung is a barrier organ in direct communication with the external environment, targeted delivery of gene corrective technologies to the respiratory system via intratracheal or intranasal routes is an attractive option for therapy. CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology is a promising approach to repairing or inactivating disease-causing mutations. Recent reports have provided proof of concept by using CRISPR/Cas9 to successfully repair or inactivate mutations in animal models of monogenic human diseases. Potential pulmonary applications of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing include gene correction of monogenic diseases in pre- or postnatal lungs and ex vivo gene editing of patient-specific airway stem cells followed by autologous cell transplant. Strategies to enhance gene-editing efficiency and eliminate off-target effects by targeting pulmonary stem/progenitor cells and the assessment of short-term and long-term effects of gene editing are important considerations as the field advances. If methods continue to advance rapidly, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing may provide a novel opportunity to correct monogenic diseases of the respiratory system.

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