Imagine living your entire life contained within a plastic bubble. Contact from the outside world, including your parents, is lethal. Rather than feeling the warm touch of a human hand, the clammy cold of laboratory gloves comforts you to sleep. Is this living or this surviving? You make the call.
SCIDs is an acronym for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome. Persons born with SCIDs lack the ability to fight off infections. SCIDs creates a situation in which the common cold is just as deadly as pneumonia.
This family of diseases is obviously debilitating and life-threatening. That is why finding a cure is imperative. This disease is not contagious, it is genetic and is thus acquired through the simple role of the genetic dice.
There is absolutely nothing we can do about this sad syndrome, or is there...
We can look to gene therapy: an exciting and revolutionary new field of research and medicine which may reveal the key to unlocking a myriad of genetic diseases.
This paper will explore the problems posed by SCIDs and the answer offered by Marina Cavazzana-Calvo and Salima Hacein-Bey. Their work in gene therapy has great potential towards bursting the bubble on SCIDs.
Immune System Introduction
So, you ask, what does it mean to have SCID? Well, in order to answer this question, we have to go through a quick tour of the immune system.
The immune system of the human body is comprised of a vast array of cells that fight off diseases (antigens) that are harmful to the well-being of the body. In an individual with a properly functioning immune system, the body has multiple genes that encode specific instructions for the proper design and function of the cells of the immune system.
The immune system has two different arms: the cellular response system and the humoral response system. The main cell in the immune system is the T-cell. There are several types of T-cells, two of which are cytotoxic T-cells and helper T-cells. Cytotoxic T-cells kill cells infected with a virus (cyto-cell, toxic-deadly). Helper T-cells are signal cells in the immune system and will be discussed in detail later. Natural killer cells are also very important; they "naturally" attack antigens without having to recognize them.
The other major cells are B-cells. B-cells produce and secrete antibodies, the cells that attach to invading bacteria and cause them to be destroyed.
The humoral response system is composed of B-cells while the cellular response system is composed of cytotoxic T-cells. The helper T-cell, however, is very important to both parts of the immune system.
The Almighty Helper T-cell
It can be said that there is a war going on within your body. Your immune system is fighting antigens at all times to keep your body free of viruses and bacteria. Using this analogy, we can say that our humoral and cellular response systems are like the Army and the Navy of our immune system. With two different...