Gene Therapy for Beta-Hemoglobinopathies: Milestones, New Therapies and Challenges

Mol Diagn Ther. 2019 Apr;23(2):173-186. doi: 10.1007/s40291-019-00383-4.


Inherited monogenic disorders such as beta-hemoglobinopathies (BH) are fitting candidates for treatment via gene therapy by gene transfer or gene editing. The reported safety and efficacy of lentiviral vectors in preclinical studies have led to the development of several clinical trials for the addition of a functional beta-globin gene. Across trials, dozens of transfusion-dependent patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) and transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia (TDT) have been treated via gene therapy and have achieved reduced transfusion requirements. While overall results are encouraging, the outcomes appear to be strongly influenced by the level of lentiviral integration in transduced cells after engraftment, as well as the underlying genotype resulting in thalassemia. In addition, the method of procurement of hematopoietic stem cells can affect their quality and thus the outcome of gene therapy both in SCD and TDT. This suggests that new studies aimed at maximizing the number of corrected cells with long-term self-renewal potential are crucial to ensure successful treatment for every patient. Recent advancements in gene transfer and bone marrow transplantation have improved the success of this approach, and the results obtained by using these strategies demonstrated significant improvement of gene transfer outcome in patients. The advent of new gene-editing technologies has suggested additional therapeutic options. These are primarily focused on correcting the defective beta-globin gene or editing the expression of genes or genomic segments that regulate fetal hemoglobin synthesis. In this review, we aim to establish the potential benefits of gene therapy for BH, to summarize the status of the ongoing trials, and to discuss the possible improvement or direction for future treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Editing
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Hemoglobinopathies / genetics*
  • Hemoglobinopathies / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome
  • beta-Globins / genetics*


  • beta-Globins