Can gene therapy make you strong like Jessica Jones? Yes — but it’s complicated

Jessica Jones bends a metal chair like it’s putty and lifts a refrigerator with the ease of an empty box. She throws a man through a glass door, breaks a lock with her bare hands and interrupts a robbery by throwing a bottle of liquor at the intruder.

One of the few feats that she finds onerous? Lifting an enormous, full trailer off an injured woman.

Jones, the protagonist of her eponymous hit Netflix NFLX, -0.92%  series, is super-strong — her abilities and those of other characters the result of (spoiler alert!) covert, cutting-edge scientific procedures performed by a rogue scientist and his shadowy organization.

Tinkering with the body’s genetic material to make it stronger and healthier sounds like the stuff of television, but it’s also real — and served as the inspiration for “Jessica Jones.”

Gene therapy, that very procedure, is already being used to treat complex diseases, with hopes of using it far more widely.

Human capabilities could likely be enhanced through gene therapy, possibly attaining even some of the abilities pictured on the show.

But the truth is more complicated than fiction. Where those differences lie tells us how close we are to a science-fiction future.

“Jessica Jones” also raises a decades-long debate that’s reignited with today’s gene therapy renaissance: What can, and should, this transformational science be used for? And what’s stopping it from being abused?

Inspired by CRISPR

In 2016, as the writing staff of “Jessica Jones” sat down to hash out how their protagonist got her super-strength, the genome-editing tool CRISPR was everywhere.

News reports recounted its power, promise in human diseases and inventors. One spread, in Science News magazine, cited scientists describing CRISPR as a miracle.

In the Marvel comic books that “Jessica Jones” is based on, the character’s origin story involves exposure

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