Genetic Engineering - The History of Gene Therapy

Genetic Engineering - The History of Gene Therapy
In today?s society, the demand for perfection is strong. Imagine the possibility that you could choose the traits your child would possess. As technology increases, eventually humans could be able to create the ?perfect? child, with a ?perfect? behavior by replacing one gene with another. Vision the possibility that diseased or mutated genes could be replaced, ridding the world of hereditary diseases. In order to do this, technology must be increased in the area of gene therapy. Gene therapy has come a long way in its short existence.
Genetic enhancement of humans may someday be possible, following the successful completion of the Human Genome Project. According to an article in New Statesman (v. 127) by Caroline Daniel, the Human Genome Project is an ?international scientific collaboration?. The project was started in 1990. More than two billion Pounds, was funded by the European public. The United States is the main country in favor of this research. Organizations such as the National Institute of health and the US Department of Energy are among those in favor.

Though this research might sound promising and exciting, much more needs to be learned about genes and the composition of dna. dna is a double helix with nearly three billion chemical letters of genetic text, located in more than one hundred thousand different genes. The difficult part is not identifying each individual gene, but rather to figure out how each gene works, their reactions to disease and response to the environment. The Human Genome Project?s goal is to sequence every human gene before the year 2005, and surprisingly it is right on schedule. In late 1997 50,000 genes had been mapped. Originally, the thinking behind the project was that genetic disorders could be cured. Four thousand genetic conditions have been found to be linked to a single gene. By replacing that mutant gene, genetic disorders would cease to exist. As of early 1998, around 250 gene therapy trials were being conducted around the world.

Overall, one would think it?d be safe to say that that task doesn?t seem too hard at all, the only thing you need to do is replace the gene. That seems simple enough. In actuality, however, getting these new genes into the right places isn?t easy. Two ways have been found to replace genes. The first is done by inserting the new gene into a virus that attacks the gene that needs to be replaced. The downfall to this technique is that the immune system could have a bad reaction to the introduced virus. The other technique, newer to the science, ?decodes? the messages that are given off by genes in the form of protein. Using these therapeutic proteins to counteract the effects of mutant or diseased genes, the immune system could very well become much stronger. Though it is possible to screen genes for disease, it is not yet possible to screen for physical traits such as eye color. The genes must be identified in order screen for traits. It is not yet possible to ?design? your baby, but eventually it could be possible.

Controversy arises when the topic of ?designing? your baby arises. Many people are in support of genetic enhancement for the sake of health, however choosing a child?s traits is not something that people are in support of mostly due to religious or moral reasons. In an article published in the Washingtonian (v.35 no11), Leroy Walters, project director at Georgetown, tells about the positives and the negatives of gene therapy. According to Walters, gene transfer might eventually cure genetic disorders. However, after ten years in operation, there is only one published article of successful gene transfer, as opposed to the 400 unsuccessful protocols conducted world wide.

The idea of gene modification seems scary to numerous people. Walters explains this as simply a misunderstanding of the two kinds of genetic intervention. One type could be compared to an organ transplant, and only effects the patient that gets the transfer. The other type is what scares people; modifications that are passed on to descendants. As long as the modifications that are passed on are purposeful and in good reason, such as curing disease, then genetic modification should not be scary at all.

In closing, though the science of gene therapy has only been around for just more than a decade much progress has been made. Through this research, helpful information about genes and diseases, what links them, and how to cure them, is being uncovered. As long as gene therapy is used solely for the purpose of curing disease, or helping the overall health of mankind, then I am not against it. This is a new technology that someday could help extend the average life span of human beings. Man-kind could really benefit from this research. As the days pass, we are making progress in this field. Only time can tell when genetic disorders will be unheard of.

Genetic Engineering - The History of Gene Therapy 9.9 of 10 on the basis of 1894 Review.