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Gene Therapy Essay

1676 words - 7 pages

Gene TherapyBecoming ever more popular as research continues, gene therapy offers a new approach in the battle against genetically spawn diseases and malformations. Rather than using the traditional methods of using agents that interact with gene products to alter their phenotype, gene therapy may be the key to modify specific genes and provide a definitive cure to whichever disease is being dealt with. While many of the diseases dealt with by gene therapy are genetically related such as Huntington's disease or trisomy 21, other diseases that may be caused by additional factors but still related to genetics such as diabetes and cancer, may also reap the benefits of this miracle treatment. Genes within somatic cells may be manipulated to correct a specific disease within an individual; in other words, if genes inside the germ cells are modified, genetic diseases in progeny may be prevented as well. In this essay I will explain the science behind this technique, groups apposed to as well as those for it, and my personal feelings regarding gene therapy.Gene therapy may be divided into two separate forms that offer two different approaches to curing genetic disease. In one practice, somatic gene therapy involves the insertion of a healthy gene into the somatic cells or the cells of the body. If the new genes function correctly, then the disease may be cured. One characteristic of this technique is that its purpose is intended only for the individual suffering the disease. Since the gene resides in the somatic cells, the newly inserted gene will not be passed down to any future generations. While somatic gene therapy focuses its attention on an individual during his lifetime, germ line therapy offers a cure to those who have not even been born yet. By the use of procedures such as amniocentesis or genetic testing of the parents, a physician may be able to cure the genetic malformation before the child is even born. This technique involves the insertions of healthy genes into the fertilized egg of the pregnant individual. Copies of the healthy genes are then taken in by all of the zygotic cells; this even includes the reproductive cells (Jama). Through germ line therapy, the gene may be passed on to all future generations. While these procedures have been tested successfully during many lab procedures done on animals, there have been several difficulties that have aroused ethical dilemmas as to whether or not this technology should be extended to human life. Dr. E.K. Nichols of Harvard University extended his concern during a meeting regarding genetic therapy by stating that there were three main concerns regarding this procedure. "The first is that scientists have no way of diagnosing genetic disorders in the fertilized egg. Secondly, the procedure is most often used to insert genes into fertilized eggs - injection with a microscopically guided glass needle - has a high failure rate and thirdly, the problem is lack of control over where the gene is...

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