BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : JULY 12, 1999 ISSUE
COVER STORY

On the Cutting Edge


When W. French Anderson proposed the first gene therapy in 1987, he encountered some criticism. But that experiment was tame compared to what he's now considering: curing two inherited diseases by directly injecting genetic material into the tissues of the fetus.

The first disease is a hemoglobin deficiency that kills the fetus before it is born. The second is ADA deficiency, the ''bubble boy'' disorder he treated in his 1990 pioneering trial. Anderson believes that fetuses are better candidates than children or adults because fetal cells divide so rapidly they may take up foreign genes more readily.

But there's also the chance the engineered genes may infiltrate the egg or sperm cells and alter the child's genetic legacy. ''It's a powerful technology,'' Anderson admits. ''We need to be sure we use it responsibly--only to treat genetic diseases, not to create designer babies.''



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