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Gene therapy: Before the brain is destroyed

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Gene therapy: Before the brain is destroyed

This article is part of TIME on the weekendissue 16/2024.

There is no one who would not be frightened by them, existential fear: insidious sufferings that attack the brain, usually slowly but surely eating away and destroying it. There are many dozens of them, and a few of these diseases are exemplary of people’s fear of the deterioration of the thinking organ: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s chorea. Or ALS, with which Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist, was stricken.

But many others are only known by experienced neurologists, and the public doesn’t even know the names of the diseases. The outcomes are often terrible, usually without any hope. They delete the ego, they take away the independence, the control over the body, the language, some end in complete inability to move. Sometimes doctors can temporarily relieve their patients’ symptoms while slightly delaying the worsening. They can rarely improve, healing is still utopian.

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