Rare Diseases Report 2022

Rett syndrome: Looking to the future and the promise of gene therapy


Shape Therapeutics has also leveraged ADAR to “correct” mutated RNA; Rett syndrome is among the top priorities in the company’s pipeline.

Worth noting is that there are several advantages to the “correction” approach:

  • Leveraging internal repair mechanisms minimizes the immune response.
  • The flexibility of correction means that it can be used to address many of the mutations that cause Rett syndrome.63

Enzyme replacement therapy, in which the MECP2 protein produced by MECP2 would be directly replaced, is being explored in Rett syndrome patients. This technology has been used successfully in Pompe disease; however, Rett syndrome presents its own challenge because MECP2 needs to be delivered to the brain and neuronal cells.64

Where does this work stand? The technologies described in this section are in preclinical stages of study. Nonetheless, it is expected that several will enter human clinical trials during the next 5 years.


A diagnosis of Rett syndrome is a life-altering event for patients and their family. But there is more hope than ever for effective therapies and, eventually, a cure.

Multiple late-stage clinical trials in progress are demonstrating promising results from therapeutic products, with minimal adverse events. Remarkably, these interventions have delivered improvements to adult patients after regression has stabilized. With rapid progress being made in the field of gene therapy, several technologies for which are focused on Rett syndrome, a hopeful picture is emerging: that therapeutic intervention will be possible before regression, thus effectively treating and, potentially, even curing Rett syndrome.

The landscape is broadening. Add to this hope for approved therapies is the fact that Rett syndrome isn’t the only target being pursued with such strategies; in fact, researchers in the larger field of neurodevelopmental disorder study are working together to find common solutions to shared challenges – from how therapies are designed and delivered to how toxicity is minimized. Much of what is being explored in the Rett syndrome field is also under investigation in other neurodevelopmental syndromes, including Angelman, Prader-Willi, chromosome 15q11.2-13.1 duplication (dup15q), and Fragile X syndrome. This kind of parallel investigation benefits all parties and optimizes a treatment platform so that it can be applied across more than a single disorder.

Like many monogenic disorders, Rett syndrome is entering an exciting stage – at which the words “treatment” and “cure” can be spoken with intent and vision, not just wide-eyed optimism. These words portend real promise for patients who carry the weight of a diagnosis of Rett syndrome, and for their families.

Ms. Ambrose is a student in the master’s of science in human genetics and genomic data analytics program, Keck Graduate Institute, Claremont, Calif. Dr. Bailus is an assistant professor of genetics, Keck Graduate Institute. The authors report no conflict of interest related to this article.


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