An early-stage trial of a new gene therapy for Cystic Fibrosis sufferers has delivered what scientists claim are encouraging results.

The gene-altering medicine was shown to moderately improve or stabilise the lung function of patients and led to health gains.

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease affecting the lungs and digestive system of 1,200 children and adults in Ireland. 

It is caused by a defective gene which leads the body to produce thick mucus that clogs the lungs, leading to life-threatening infections.

The trial of this new gene therapy was conducted by scientists in London and Edinburgh, and involved 136 CF patients aged 12 and over.

The participants inhaled fat droplets carrying genetic material into their lungs every month for a year. The globules fused with fatty cell membrane walls, allowing DNA slip into the lungs.

The results, published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine, show lung function was almost 4% better in those taking the therapy, while participants with the worst lung function at the start of the study experienced a 6.4% gain.

The scientists say while modest, the improvements were significant and a world first. But they also caution a lot more work is required before the therapy could become a viable clinical treatment.

That work begins with a much larger study starting next year.