London: Scientists give a reason to rejoice for those suffering from cystic fibrosis. A gene therapy has been discovered by the British scientists to save lives of thousands of such patients. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract. The disease is caused by two defective copies of a gene leading to potentially deadly infections.
   
Tests have shown that the missing CF gene, which was discovered in 1989, can be introduced into the lungs using a device like an asthma inhaler. It helps to reduce the deadly mucus and may allow sufferers to lead almost normal lives.

Now, a team from Imperial College London and the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford claim to have come up with the new therapy after working on it for nearly 10 years, and human trials are underway.

According to the scientists, the gene is delivered into the lungs after being wrapped in a special fat. And, the treatment should be taken once a month for the rest of a patient's life, the 'Sunday Express' reported.

Prof Eric Alton, a respiratory consultant at London's Brompton Hospital, who is leading the research effort, said, "Despite our best efforts, we lose a significant number of young people each year to this illness.
"Our initial clinical trials suggest that spraying the gene into the lung can correct the defect."

Angharad Sutton, 30, a university worker from Ealing, west London, who took part in trials of the gene spray, said, "It's amazing that one day soon I might not have to worry about a chest infection. At present I have to perform twice daily physiotherapy to keep my airways clear."

Now, the British scientists want funds for year-long trials involving 100 patients. About one in 25 people carry a defective gene.

Rosie Barnes, formerly Chief Executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, is helping to raise research funds. She said, "This is an amazing development for British science. Once cystic fibrosis sufferers barely got past their teens. Now we have the prospect that soon they may live to old age."

(Agencies)