Genes are made of DNA – the code of life (Gene Therapy- The Great Debate!). The changes in genes may cause serious problems, which we called genetic disorder. In theory, the only method to cure genetic disorders is gene therapy, which basically means the replacement of genes in order to correct the loss or change in people’s DNA. Although gene therapy gives patients with genetic disorders a permanent cure, it is controversial because it has safety and efficacy problems, and raises ethical issues.
Gene therapy enables patients to survive incurable diseases. In the field of genetic diseases, ADA-SCID, CGD and hemophilia are three main ones. ADA-SCID is known as the bubble boy disease. CGD is related to immune system that would lead to fungal infections which are fatal. Patients with Hemophilia are not able to induce bold bleeding (Gene therapy for diseases, 2011). Gene therapy also has good effects on cancer treatment and neurodegenerative diseases, which include Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Viral infections, including influenza, HIV and hepatitis can also be treats by it (Gene therapy for diseases, 2011). According to the Science Daily in 2011, gene therapy now can apply to heart failures and neurologic diseases as well.
Gene therapy gives patients who born with diseases that are incurable to traditional medicine a permanent cure. If patients received germ-line therapy, which involves replacing disordered genes in sperms or eggs, their offspring would also have correct gene orders. The positive effect would influence the whole family.
However, the safety of gene therapy should be carefully considered. First, it may cause angiogenesis, which may trigger nonfunctional vessels or stimulation of angiogenesis in tumors (Safety Issues with Gene Therapy). Second, gene therapy often uses viral vectors to carry the correct genes. The viral vectors insert foreign DNA into host genome and it may lead to gene silencing or even tumor development (Safety Issues with Gene Therapy). Moreover, immature technology may insert viral vectors into wrong place and it would trigger unpredictable results, like tumor or gene mutation. (Rocholl, B.)
The efficacy of gene therapy should also be questioned. Despite being very expensive, gene therapy may not work because of the immature technology. People’s own immune system may have rejection and it may cause the failure of gene therapy or make viruses fail to express themselves (Bergeson, E., 1997). For example, a virus used in treatment of cystic fibrosis produced an inflammatory response. (Rocholl, B) Moreover, cells divide infrequently and the replacing genes in gene therapy may insert into cells that are dividing, which cause the failure of gene therapy. (Rocholl, B)
The heated discussions of gene therapy focus on its ethical problems. Before performing gene therapy, a gene test is required. Doctors need to test or screen the whole DNA to ensure the disordered gene. However, this process is...