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What is Gene Therapy?
Genes, which are present on chromosomes, are considered the basic functional unit of heredity. Genes are specific base sequences that encode instructions for making specific proteins. The proteins formed perform most life functions and the cellular structures. However, when a specific gene is altered, the protein formed fail to perform normal functions. Gene mutations cause the encoded protein to malfunction and genetic disorders can result.
Gene therapy is defined as the technique of correcting mutated genes responsible for disease conditions. In other words, it is a technique in which a functional gene replaces the defective gene so that the body can make the functional protein and therefore eliminate the root cause of the disease. In the last few years, there have been several technological breakthroughs that have made it possible for clinical trials in gene therapy to begin. The potential for gene therapy is limitless. However, there are many challenges that researchers worldwide have to confront, including whether the pros of gene therapy outweigh the cons.
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Do Pros of Gene Therapy Outweigh the Cons?
There are several ethical and legal issues associated with gene therapy. A review board has been developed, which is known as the Recombinant Advisory Committee, to address the concerns associated with gene therapy.
The positive aspect of gene therapy is quite obvious, as it can eradicate genetic diseases so that the defective genes cannot inherit to the next generation. Gene therapy is a potential medicine that can eliminate several hereditary diseases.
The consequences of gene therapy are many. The very first target is putting human fate in our own hands – allowing us to manufacture future generations at will. Many people are of the opinion that gene therapy will be used to generate a superior race. However, this is not the goal of scientists. The main idea of gene therapy is to cure genetic diseases.
Another great concern associated with gene therapy is religion. Some people consider it sinful to alter DNA. However, in reality, it is simply a therapy used to cure a particular genetic disorder. In addition to ethical issues, one of the major concerns is the cost of gene therapy, which is very high. However, scientists are optimistic that the cost will be much cheaper in future.
The last but not the least is the risk of the procedure. Since gene therapy is still in its developmental stage, finding the precise location of the gene and replacing with a normal one is definitely a challenge. But it is true that with the invention of new and advanced techniques, scientists will soon be able to achieve a great success in this applied modern science. At present, gene therapy is associated with both pros and cons, but in the coming time, gene therapy will have a tremendous affect on the future of genetics.
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(Web): ASPECTS OF GENE THERAPY (PROS & CONS) -- http://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~mcclean/plsc431/students/eric.htm
(Web): Gene Therapy -- http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/medicine/genetherapy.shtml