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The Ethical Controversy Of Gene Therapy

1623 words - 6 pages

Gene therapy is a technique that uses genes to treat or prevent diseases. It is the process of taking DNA from one organism and inserting it to another. No development in the field of biotechnology has inspired both greater fear and hope in human society than gene therapy. Here is the big question among the people. While this new advancement in gene therapy promotes new hopes to cure life-threatening diseases or help the amputee or physically disabled persons to lead life like a normal human, it also raises questions about morality as well as the adverse effects it may cause in the future society. In our media intensive society, thousands of newspapers and magazines, tv talk shows resound with different points of view about the morality of gene therapy. Proponents of this medical treatment argue that it promises enormous benefits for medicine as well as agriculture and industry. Yet, it has aroused considerable public concern because it is perceived by many as an unpredictable technology.
The major ethical controversy is whether to alter the natural human genetic structure. Many researchers were successful in curing both the genetic and non-genetic diseases by altering the somatic cells of the individual. It has been accepted as a good practice. The main reason is only the individual in question receives the altered somatic cells but it will not pass to his off-spring. Thus it doesn’t change the original genetic structure of that individual. Public debate over the ethics of using gene therapy began after the research of the recombinant DNA technology started in 1960. Many felt that somatic cell gene therapy is merely an extension of conventional therapies posing few ethical problems. Some gene therapies introduce novel ways to produce medical which are now available at high cost. For example, ”SCID due to ADA deficiency can be treated by administration of ADA, but the enzyme is very expensive and must be taken frequently. The same enzyme could be produced by the genetic addition of the ADA gene at the cost of a one-time procedure. Other gene therapies have similarities to transplantation. For example, CF may be treated by providing the patient with normally functioning pulmonary cells. Such cells can be introduced in two ways: by doing a lung transplant, or by genetically altering the patient’s own lung cells so they are not subject to damage by CF genes. The former is an expensive halfway technology that requires ongoing immunosuppression to prevent rejection, and constant alertness to infection that may result from immunosuppression. Gene therapy, on the other hand, would require one treatment to achieve permanent reversal of the CF pathophysiology, with none of the continuing risks of immunosuppression. In producing normal pulmonary cell function, genetic alteration of the patient’s own lung cells seems far less invasive, and is potentially far less costly, than
transplantation.(Robert and George)

Figure 1 Gene therapy used...

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