"Gene therapy is the therapeutic delivery of nucleic acid polymers into a patient's cells as a drug to treat disease. The first attempt at modifying human DNA was performed in 1980 by Martin Cline, but the first successful nuclear gene transfer in humans, approved by the National Institutes of Health, was performed in May 1989. The first therapeutic use of gene transfer as well as the first direct insertion of human DNA into the nuclear genome was performed by French Anderson in a trial starting in September 1990.
Between 1989 and February 2016, over 2,300 clinical trials had been conducted, more than half of them in phase I.
Not all medical procedures that introduce alterations to a patient's genetic makeup can be considered gene therapy. Bone marrow transplantation and organ transplants in general have been found to introduce foreign DNA into patients. Gene therapy is defined by the precision of the procedure and the intention of direct therapeutic effects.
Gene therapy utilizes the delivery of DNA into cells, which can be accomplished by several methods, summarized below. The two major classes of methods are those that use recombinant viruses (sometimes called biological nanoparticles or viral vectors) and those that use naked DNA or DNA complexes (non-viral methods).
Gene therapy is being studied for some forms of epilepsy. It relies on viral or non-viral vectors to deliver DNA or RNA to target brain areas where seizures arise, in order to prevent the development of epilepsy or to reduce the frequency and/or severity of seizures. Gene therapy has delivered promising results in early stage clinical trials for other neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, raising the hope that it will become a treatment for intractable epilepsy.
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