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Gene therapy for neuromuscular disorders: prospects and ethics


Most childhood neuromuscular disorders are caused by mutations causing abnormal expression or regulation of single genes or genetic pathways. The potential for gene therapy, gene editing and genetic therapies to ameliorate the course of these conditions is extraordinarily exciting, but there are significant challenges associated with their use, particularly with respect to safety, efficacy, cost and equity. Engagement with these novel technologies mandates careful assessment of the benefits and burdens of treatment for the patient, their family and their society. The examples provided by spinal muscular atrophy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy illustrate the potential value and challenges of gene and genetic therapies for paediatric neurological conditions. The cost and complexity of administration of these agents is a challenge for all countries. Jurisdictional variations in availability of newborn screening, genetic diagnostics, drug approval and reimbursement pathways, treatment and rehabilitation will affect equity of access, nationally and internationally. These challenges will best be addressed by collaboration by governments, pharma, clinicians and patient groups to establish frameworks for safe and cost-effective use of these exciting new therapies.

  • neurology
  • genetics
  • therapeutics
  • ethics

Data availability statement

No data are available. This is an invited review with no original data.

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