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a strand of DNA in blues and pinks

Imagine a not-so-distant future, when a 60-year-old man named John Doe goes to the doctor to replace a faulty gene or insert a whole new gene into his body—something that cures his diabetes, for instance. This is no pipe dream. 

So far, gene therapy has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for only a couple of applications like rare inherited diseases and blood cancer. That said, more than 2,000 clinical trials are taking place in 2023, with 200 of them having already reached phase 3 clinical trials. A slew of upcoming gene therapies could be approved—possibly in the months to come—in the United States and Europe, targeting everything from sickle cell disease and hemophilia to metastatic skin cancer. In this future, gene therapy will be approved for everything we can imagine—and many things we can’t.

Now fast forward 10 more years. That same man and his peers will have counted 70 circles round the sun. But John will remain biologically 60. At the same time, someone who is 30 years old in the year 2033 could...