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Gene Therapy: Advantages and DisadvantagesBY: Muniba Safdar | Category: Genetics | Submitted: 2010-07-18 15:28:44
Genes are units of heredity, which are usually a stretch of DNA that codes for specific protein. Proteins perform most important functions of cells and carry out normal function of living cell. Genes are carried on chromosomes and carry genetic information and hold the information to build or maintain an organism's cell. But once a single gene is interpolated, a gene that encode for a protein will no longer be functional and unable to catty out their normal function thus, genetic disorders can result.
There is a saying of James Watson "We used to think that our fate was in our stars, but now we know that, in large measure, our fate is in our genes". Here he is talking about fate that contained in our genes. This addresses a newfangled technique 'Gene therapy'.
Gene therapy is a technique in which a gene that is responsible for disease development is replaced with a healthy gene, in other words defective gene is corrected. This is done by inserting number of genes into patient's cells and tissues for the treatment of hereditary diseases in which a defective mutant allele that is causative for abnormal function of cells are supplanted with the a functional one.
For the introduction of healthy gene into patient's body doctors uses a vector (which may be a virus) to rescue their genes. Currently, scientists are seeking to get full vantage of virus capabilities by manipulating their genome by inserting therapeutic genes. But everything has its prunes and cons. Gene therapy has also its advantages and disadvantages.
Before going to perform gene therapy, defective genes are searched and to find these genes, it is obligatory to perform genetic tests or genetic screening (susceptibility to find a particular disease) to see whether a defective gene that causes for example, cancer, is present or not. But because of this genetic testing some issues or legal problems stood up.
• For the diagnosis of disease in a fetus or embryo before it is born prenatal testing is performed. If an unborn carries any defective gene then their parent's definitely want to abort this child this may increase number of abortions. This is a braggy disadvantage of gene therapy. This creates many ethical problems.
Despite of this disadvantage of gene therapy, this technique has advantages as well
• Giving an advantage to someone who has born with a genetic disease by replacing non-functional gene with a functional one. This may give someone a chance of normal life.
• A cancer patient can also get advantage of this technique by insertion of genetically altered vectors into human genome.
As gene therapy is uprising in the field of medicine. Scientists believe that after 20 years gene therapy will be the cure of every genetic disease no other treatment will be required. There are some people who do not understand what actually the technique is! Doctors are trying hard to treat every genetic disease with gene therapy. Gene therapy could be last cure for every genetic disease. In the near future, every genetic disease will have gene therapy as its treatment. This technique is chop-chop sharpening the field of medicine. Gene therapy will play Copernican part and will change our lives forever.
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