Up until recently, there were certain diseases out there that seemed impossible to cure. Then came gene therapy, a revolutionary new way to prevent and eliminate hereditary diseases, as well as other widespread diseases like cancer and AIDS. In the realm of medicine, it seems like a true miracle.
Of course, like every medicine known to man, there are risks and side effects. Researchers are currently studying how to use gene therapy properly, though are the risks worth the outcomes? Let’s find out!
When was Gene Therapy and First Introduced?
The idea that genes could be safely taken out and transferred into living beings was introduced by Drs. W. French Anderson and Michael Blaese in 1985. The process was first performed on animals to show that it could be useful in disease treatment.
The introduction of gene therapy was on September 14th, 1990 at the NIH Clinical Center. A four-year old girl with adenosine deaminase deficiency, a genetic disease that leaves a person without defense against infections, was the first gene therapy patient. Her white blood cells were taken from her and injected with adenosine deaminase so that they could be put back into her body. The girl is currently living out a normal life with healthy adenosine deaminase levels.
What is Gene Therapy and How Does it Affect Your Health?
Gene therapy involves taking genes from inside your body and altering them to help treat a disease. Because genes contain the very DNA that helps your body to function properly, a gene that doesn’t work like it should will likely cause disease. Gene therapy helps by swapping out a broken gene for a new one and has promised the possibility of curing cancer, AIDS, hemophilia, heart disease, and a wide range of other diseases.
Of course, there are risks to gene therapy as well. Your body may see a newly inserted gene as a virus and try to fight it off, which could have grossly negative implications. If a gene is inserted into the wrong DNA section, it could also cause tumors. This is why there are many different trials throughout the United States right now to help research this new type of therapy.
Gene Therapy in Movies and Pop Culture
Gattaca is by far one of the most popular science fiction films that deals with the risks and benefits of genetic modification. While the 1998 film brilliantly shows gene therapy’s advantages in treating things like premature baldness and myopia, it also shows that it could cause a shift and create a “gene class” in society.
Extraordinary Measures is a 2010 Harrison Ford film that tells the true story of a girl with Pompe’s Disease who was treated with gene therapy.
Links to Related Articles
Here are some more resources to find out more about gene therapy:
The video above details the mechanics of gene therapy. Gene therapy holds a lot of promise in the medical realm, as gene therapy clinical trials have continually shown success in treating immune deficiencies, hemophilia, leukemia, and more. Of course, there are many hurdles that come with making this type of therapy commonplace.
We can only hope that this type of therapy becomes a realistic and effective way to treat the diseases of our world within the next generation.