What is the Future of Gene Therapy?
As soon as mankind started being able to read the human genome, thoughts started to come out as to what could potentially be done with this information.
Could genes be used to predict people’s future? Could genes be manipulated to make people healthier and to help them avoid inevitable diseases?
Gene therapy is the answer to these questions. Gene therapy is an experimental technique. The intention is simple. Since scientists have continued to figure out which genes are responsible for aspects of the human body, the time is coming where a healthy gene can be inserted instead of the mutated or damaged gene that is currently residing within a person. Alternatively a gene that is functioning incorrectly could be removed to produce the same result. The potential of gene therapy to help heal the world is immense.
Cancer Gene Therapy
Cancer takes an immense toll on life every single year. Despite the billions being spent every year on cancer research, there is still no cure available. But what if the answer is through gene therapy?
Many cancers are caused by imperfect or mutated genes. These genes don’t function correctly and then the cancerous cells grow and spread. This is where gene therapy could come in handy. As mentioned earlier, gene therapy includes the ability to remove, add or alter genes in a person’s genetic code. Specifically when it comes to cancer, it can work on the genes that are responsible for whatever type of cancer is being treated. This is currently one of the most promising avenues of research into cancer treatments there are.
Gene Therapy Research
Gene therapy is far from finished. This is still in the early experimental phases to be sure. There have been great advances, but also great setbacks as it has continued. Part of that has come because of what people are planning with gene therapy.
While some people are being altruistic and trying to use gene therapy as a way to prevent disease, others are looking into it from a completely cosmetic perspective. It may sound a bit like science fiction, but there are those who are hoping to be able to manipulate the more specific exterior genes. The genes that control hair color and things of that nature could allow people to make their children look very specific. This kind of manipulation is considered human genetic engineering. It wouldn’t just be physical either. There are genes that have been linked to memory, physical capabilities and intelligence. Manipulating these genes is currently mired in ethical debates. Many believe they should be left alone so that every person may develop as they are “intended” to. Since the science hasn’t caught up to these concepts, it’s not yet as big of an issue, but it is likely to become more pertinent as it gets closer to being a reality.
Gene Correction Therapy in Children
One of the places where gene therapy has made the most advances is actually in diseases that affect children. While many are still experimental and not as reliable as other means, they can provide a lifeline to a stricken parent who may lose their child. Currently it’s best suited to handling some things like sickle cell diseases, metabolic disorders and immunodeficiencies. That last is incredibly difficult to treat in a child and gene therapy can be lifesaving and life altering. Having a lifelong immunodeficiency can change every aspect of a person’s life. Having it fixed through gene therapy can create a huge difference in the quality of life that the person might have faced.