Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Casgevy: Gene Therapy for Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassaemia


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Casgevy, Crispr-Cas9 technology

Mains level: Read the attached story


Central Idea

  • The recent approval of Casgevy, a groundbreaking gene therapy utilizing Crispr-Cas9 technology, by the UK health authorities represents a monumental achievement in medicine.
  • This therapy holds the potential to provide a lifelong cure for individuals grappling with sickle cell disease and thalassaemia, offering newfound hope and possibilities in the field of genetic medicine.

Casgevy: A Gene-Editing Marvel

  • World’s First Licensed Gene Therapy: Casgevy stands as the world’s inaugural licensed gene therapy employing Crispr-Cas9 technology, an innovation that garnered the Nobel Prize in 2020.
  • Targeting Faulty Genes: This revolutionary therapy specifically targets the flawed genes responsible for sickle cell disease and thalassaemia, offering the tantalizing prospect of a lifelong cure.
  • A Paradigm Shift: In the past, the only permanent treatment option was a bone marrow transplant, contingent on discovering a closely matched donor.

Mechanism of Action

  • Genetic Errors: Sickle cell disease and thalassaemia both stem from genetic abnormalities within the haemoglobin gene, impairing the structure and functionality of red blood cells.
  • Precision Gene Editing: Casgevy harnesses the patient’s blood stem cells, meticulously edited using Crispr-Cas9, with a specific focus on the BCL11A gene.
  • Boosting Foetal Haemoglobin: By stimulating the production of foetal haemoglobin, which lacks the irregularities found in adult haemoglobin, the therapy mitigates the symptoms of these debilitating conditions.

Understanding Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassaemia


Sickle Cell Disease: Characterized by crescent-shaped red blood cells, this condition disrupts smooth blood flow, resulting in excruciating pain, infections, anaemia, and even strokes. India bears witness to an annual influx of 30,000-40,000 children born with sickle cell disease.

Thalassaemia: This disorder leads to diminished haemoglobin levels, causing fatigue, breathlessness, and irregular heartbeats, necessitating lifelong blood transfusions and chelation therapy. India is home to the world’s largest population of children with thalassaemia major, numbering approximately 1-1.5 lakh.

 Clinical Trial Results

  • Clinical trials of Casgevy showcased remarkable results, with participants afflicted by sickle cell disease reporting a substantial reduction in severe pain crises.
  • Those with thalassaemia witnessed a remarkable 70% reduction in the need for blood transfusions.

Administration and Challenges

  • One-Time Treatment: Casgevy involves a one-time treatment process, encompassing the collection of bone marrow blood stem cells through apheresis, followed by editing and testing over a span of approximately six months.
  • Conditioning Medicine: Prior to the transplant with edited cells, conditioning medicine is administered to clear the bone marrow of existing cells.
  • Challenges: Challenges include the expected high cost of the therapy, potentially around $2 million per patient, and the absence of local manufacturing facilities, necessitating the international transport of blood stem cells.

Future Prospects

  • Price Reduction: Despite pricing challenges, experts hold the belief that ongoing research will lead to price reductions, making the therapy more accessible. Local manufacturing facilities are also anticipated to emerge.
  • Indian Research: Researchers in India are actively pursuing gene therapies for sickle cell disease, with clinical trials on the horizon in the coming years.

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