Genetic Engineering - The Dark Side of Genetic Therapy

Genetic Engineering - The Dark Side of Genetic Therapy
Still in its youth, genetic therapy has made progress, however it still needs much more advancements. When looking at the surface, nearly every clinical test that has been conducted has resulted in failure. There are many reasons for this, including media, investors, and rush testing. Biotechnology is a serious field of science, therefore its studying and research should not be rushed, valuable information could be surpassed. However, reality sheds another light and the testing is rushed, failure has resulted. The failure in the past tests of genetic therapy is the result of many different factors.
Prior to solving the major puzzles of gene therapy, scientists must first figure out the smaller fundamental problems, many of which have not been worked out so that the technology can be advanced. According to an article titled ?Gene Therapy? by Eric B. Kmiec most of the techniques of current gene therapy consist of attempting to replace a defective gene, with one that is fully functional. One of the major problems has been getting the gene into the nucleus of the cell and fitting it in its proper place. On top of that problem, the new gene must function properly like a normal cell would. Many genetic disorders are the effect of a malfunction in a gene. Through gene therapy the malfunctioning gene can be replaced by a working version of the gene that carries out its normal cellular functions. To make things even more difficult on scientists, fixing the dna in a few cells will not be beneficial for the patient. The scientists need to fix the dna in a numerous amount of cells in order for the gene therapy to be beneficial. Also the fixed genes must not only be expressed by the cells but they must also become integrated into the chromosomes. If the new genes do not include a promoter, ?on switch?, then they will have no effect on the cell. In contrast, if the promoter is not functioning correctly, it could cause cell division too often thus causing the same effects as cancer. There are many steps to fixing a gene, scientists cannot move on to step two until they have successfully completed step one.

Among these technical holdups, research in biotechnology has run into serious problems. In his article titled ?Human Gene Therapy: Harsh Lessons, High Hopes?, Larry Thompson, tells of more setbacks the industry has come upon. According to the article, the University of Pennsylvania?s Institute of Human Gene Therapy conducted a genetic experiment on eighteen year old Jesse Gelsinger. Gelsinger, suffered from a genetic disorder and wanted to help advance the field that might be able to cure him. The experiment that he underwent concluded in tragedy and Gelsinger died. This caused a major setback in genetic research because it resulted in government investigations of the gene therapy labs. In their investigations, the government learned that the scientists had not been following all of the rules; negative effects due to genetic therapy were not being reported, and some of the researchers were even asking that the problem not be made public. The news did hit the media however which caused another major setback for research. People became afraid to take part as gene therapy subjects due to the fact that did not trust it, or know if their safety would be ensured. Lack of test subjects was the last of the problems for many institutes including the University of Pennsylvania that conducted the test on Gelsinger. Almost immediately the fda shut down many institutes conducting gene therapy that had been found to not follow the protocols. Some research groups chose to pause research in order check over their work and learn from the mistakes at Pennsylvania in order to prevent future problems from occurring.

After looking beneath the surface of the biotechnology industry, one will find that there are many reasons which have slowed the progress of genetic therapy. Tests being rushed without fully developing the proper information is one of the technical reasons. Mistakes and tragedies that resulted from ignorance of the researchers is another reason. Testing should not be done without all of the proper information, and without knowing the information that other researchers know which could be fatal or harmful to test subjects. Rushing this study will cause it to continue its failure. Scientists need to share data, and take the time to learn about their data before they use it in clinical tests. There have been many setbacks for this research, most could have been prevented if patience and ignorance of regulations had not been a problem.

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