THE biggest test undertaken of a gene therapy treatment for cystic fibrosis is about to start in Britain.
Results, expected by 2010, stand a real chance of transforming the lives of patients and families affected by the devastating disease.
If the treatment succeeds, it could offer new hope to Chancellor Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah.
Their four-month-old son, James Fraser, has been diagnosed with the genetic condition.
The £20m project, almost entirely paid for by charitable donations, will be conducted by pioneering scientists in London, Oxford and Edinburgh.
They hope to prove that corrective genes can be administered to cystic fibrosis sufferers via a spray inhaler.
A trial due to begin in 2008 will for the first time try to show clinical evidence that gene therapy can improve the condition of patients with the disease.
If it succeeds, a commercially available treatment could soon follow.
The scientists do not expect to provide a complete cure, but hope
patients could have their condition greatly improved.