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Gene therapy to introduce new genes into humans for medical benefit

Physical Science: 6.07 Impact of Biotechnology

Kathryn Jones

on 22 May 2013

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Transcript of Gene therapy to introduce new genes into humans for medical benefit

By: Kathryn Jones Gene Therapy Description of Gene Therapy Gene therapy is a technique for correcting defective genes responsible for disease development. Researchers may use one of several approaches for correcting faulty genes:

-A normal gene may be inserted into a nonspecific location within the genome to replace a nonfunctional gene. This approach is most common.

-An abnormal gene could be swapped for a normal gene through homologous recombination.

-The abnormal gene could be repaired through selective reverse mutation, which returns the gene to its normal function.

-The regulation (the degree to which a gene is turned on or off) of a particular gene could be altered. Purpose of Gene Therapy The Cons Ethical, religious and moral issues:

-The intrusive nature of gene therapy means that we can discover information about our genetic make-up that some would say we are never meant to know. From genetic screening we can find out if we are at any significant risk of certain diseases. For some, this knowledge could have a negative impact on their lives and if that knowledge was to influence any life decisions in a negative way then it is questionable whether genetic screening is morally correct.

-Genetic screening can also be carried out on unborn babies – if this screening showed that a child was carrying a disease this may lead to the parents deciding to abort the child. This is clearly a very morally questionable act as many would argue that a person does not have the right to play God with another person’s life.

-Similarly, a couple who are aware of their genetic make-up and know that they’re both carriers of a specific genetic disorder may decide against having children to avoid passing on the defective gene. Again, many would argue that this goes against the natural order.

-Gene therapy has the potential to be misused – for instance the concept of “designer babies”, where specific genes are selected in order to create the perfect child, can be compared to Hitler’s attempts to create a superior race. The Pros of Gene Therapy Conclusion In my opinion, I think gene therapy could be good and bad at the same time. It could help someone with a deathly disease, tremendously, but there is also a chance that it could make matters worse.

Also, I'm pro life, so I also think this could be a reason why so many abortions could start happening. The people could see that their child could have Cystic Fibrosis, Cancer, Down Syndrome, etc. and have their baby aborted because of that.

I know Gene Therapy is used a little bit already, but I cannot decide on whether it should be used MORE or not. The purpose of gene therapy is to replace a defective gene with a normal copy of the same gene in attempt to restore function. -The most important factor in the development of gene therapy is the fact that, for genetic disorders, there is only one way of curing the disease – replacing the defective gene with a healthy copy – and therefore gene therapy is the only hope of finding cures for such disorders
-If gene therapy targets the reproductive cells of carriers of such genetic disorders as cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s disease, or cancer, it is possible that any children the carrier goes on to have would be free of the defective gene and on a bigger scale the disease can be wiped out completely
-Gene therapy, when successful, can have a number of advantages over drug therapy such as providing a cure rather than easing the symptoms. These advantages are discussed in detail in the section ‘Advantages of Gene Therapy’. Issues based on the science behind gene therapy:

-The current lack of knowledge and understanding of the treatment means that its safety is unknown. The current scientific understanding is based on theory rather than solid fact. This, however, can be improved with further research and practice.

-In clinical trials already carried out the effects of the treatment have only been short-lived. To achieve long term results much more research is needed.

-Drug therapy, although not offering the possibility of a cure, is a tried and tested method and is therefore deemed safer

-With current knowledge there is no guarantee that the vector carrying the healthy gene will end up in the specific place it is intended – there is a risk of causing even more damage to the genetic make-up that can result in severe consequences for the patient
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