Protein folding inside the cell involves the participation of accessory components known as molecular chaperones. In addition to their active participation in the folding process, molecular chaperones serve as a type of 'quality control system', recognizing, retaining and targeting misfolded proteins for their eventual degradation. It is now known that a number of human diseases arise as a consequence of specific point mutations or deletions within genes encoding essential proteins. In many cases these mutations/deletions are not so severe as to totally destroy the biological activity of the particular gene product. Rather, the mutations often result in only subtle folding abnormalities which lead to the newly synthesized protein being retained at the endoplasmic reticulum by the actions of the cellular quality control system. In this short review article we discuss our recent studies showing that the protein folding defect associated with the most common mutation in patients with cystic fibrosis can be overcome by a novel strategy. As shown in the paper by Brown et al in this issue (Brown et al 1996), a number of different low molecular weight compounds, all known to stabilize proteins in their native conformation, are effective in rescuing the processing defect of the mutant cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator protein. We then discuss how these same compounds, which we now call chemical chaperones, also may prove to be effective in correcting a number of other protein folding abnormalities which constitute the underlying basis of a large number of different human diseases.