Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a monogenic autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in the CFTR
gene. There are at least 346 disease-causing variants in the CFTR
gene, but effective small-molecule therapies exist for only ~10% of them. One option to treat all mutations is CFTR cDNA-based therapy, but clinical trials to date have only been able to stabilise rather than improve lung function disease in patients. While cDNA-based therapy is already a clinical reality for a number of diseases, some animal studies have clearly established that precision genome editing can be significantly more effective than cDNA addition. These observations have led to a number of gene-editing clinical trials for a small number of such genetic disorders. To date, gene-editing strategies to correct CFTR
mutations have been conducted exclusively in cell models, with no in vivo gene-editing studies yet described. Here, we highlight some of the key breakthroughs in in vivo and ex vivo gene and base editing in animal models for other diseases and discuss what might be learned from these studies in the development of editing strategies that may be applied to cystic fibrosis as a potential therapeutic approach. There are many hurdles that need to be overcome, including the in vivo delivery of editing machinery or successful engraftment of ex vivo-edited cells, as well as minimising potential off-target effects. However, a successful proof-of-concept study for gene or base editing in one or more of the available CF animal models could pave the way towards a long-term therapeutic strategy for this disease.
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