Recent Progress in Gene Therapy and Other Targeted Therapeutic Approaches for Beta Thalassemia

Curr Drug Targets. 2019;20(16):1603-1623. doi: 10.2174/1389450120666190726155733.


Beta-thalassemia is a genetic disorder characterized by the impaired synthesis of the betaglobin chain of adult hemoglobin. The disorder has a complex pathophysiology that affects multiple organ systems. The main complications of beta thalassemia are ineffective erythropoiesis, chronic hemolytic anemia and hemosiderosis-induced organ dysfunction. Regular blood transfusions are the main therapy for beta thalassemia major; however, this treatment can cause cardiac and hepatic hemosiderosis - the most common cause of death in these patients. This review focuses on unique future therapeutic interventions for thalassemia that reverse splenomegaly, reduce transfusion frequency, decrease iron toxicity in organs, and correct chronic anemia. The targeted effective protocols include hemoglobin fetal inducers, ineffective erythropoiesis correctors, antioxidants, vitamins, and natural products. Resveratrol is a new herbal therapeutic approach which serves as fetal Hb inducer in beta thalassemia. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is the only curative therapy for beta thalassemia major and is preferred over iron chelation and blood transfusion for ensuring long life in these patients. Meanwhile, several molecular therapies, such as ActRIIB/IgG1 Fc recombinant protein, have emerged to address complications of beta thalassemia or the adverse effects of current drugs. Regarding gene correction strategies, a phase III trial called HGB-207 (Northstar-2; NCT02906202) is evaluating the efficacy and safety of autologous cell transplantation with LentiGlobin. Advanced gene-editing approaches aim to cut DNA at a targeted site and convert HbF to HbA during infancy, such as the suppression of BCL11A (B cell lymphoma 11A), HPFH (hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin) and zinc-finger nucleases. Gene therapy is progressing rapidly, with multiple clinical trials being conducted in many countries and the promise of commercial products to be available in the near future.

Keywords: HbF inducers; Thalassemia; gene therapy; iron-chelation therapy; molecular therapy; thalassemia complication..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Transfusion / methods
  • Gene Editing / methods
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Hemoglobins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods
  • beta-Thalassemia / genetics*
  • beta-Thalassemia / therapy*


  • Hemoglobins

Associated data