It seems as though medical procedures are constantly transforming. As technology grows so does the ability to enhance medicine in innovative ways. However, with change comes some hesitancy. Gene therapy is a new treatment that is surrounded by controversy. It seems that many people are split of this topic and have very strong views. Taking a closer look as what gene therapy is and the pros and cons surrounding this type of treatment will allow you to form your own opinion on the subject.
What is Gene Therapy?
It is easy to get bogged down by the medical terms that are thrown around when the topic of gene therapy is raised. Gene therapy can be quite complex and difficult for everyone to understand, but you ca break it down into simpler terms. It is widely regarded as a treatment reliant on substituting defective genes in a cell with correct genes. Genes are so essential, because they are the basis of heredity.
Amino acids and proteins are what make up genes and they play a pivotal role in the way in which your body functions. This means that if you have defective genes, it is safe to say that diseases and other adverse health conditions will arise as a result. There is no known cure for disorders that are classified as genetic. Most of the treatments that have been developed for gene disorders simply address the symptoms. This has led to a lot of buzz and controversy surrounding gene therapy treatments.
Gene Therapy Treatment
It is important to note that gene therapy treatments can be broken down into two different groups. One type is referred to as somatic cell therapy and the other is defined as reproductive cell therapy. Somatic cell therapy involves targeting the somatic cells for replacement. However, in the other type of gene therapy it is the reproductive cells that are replaced. When changes are made to somatic cells for patients, these changes are only corrective for the patient and can’t be passed on to offspring. However, the changes made to reproductive cells can be passed on and inherited. This means that reproductive cell therapy actually alters the gene pool for good.
Once you understand what gene therapy is and how it works, it is important to take a closer look at the pros and cons surrounding this medical treatment. Gene therapy is an issue that brings about quite a lot of debate and controversy. This is due to the political, religious and social aspects of this course of treatment for genetic disorders. This revolutionary idea is designed to be a treatment option for incurable genetic diseases, but not everyone agrees that it is a viable option. Many actually question the benefits that can be offered, while others don’t understand the religious concerns.
The Pros of Gene Therapy:
Hope for Cure of Genetic Disorders
Right now there is no known cure for genetic disorders, this means that they are currently only treated by addressing the symptoms alone. However, gene therapy allows for some hope for those individuals that are suffering with genetic disorders. Having eth ability to replace defective genes with a healthy copy is the only hope for eventually finding a cure that currently exists. This therapy can address the cure and not just the symptoms of genetic disorders.
Large Scale of Treatment
Reproductive cell therapy has a larger reach, because it alters the cells of carriers of genetic disorders including Cystic Fibrosis, Parkinson’s and Cancer. Carriers of these genetic disorders have the potential to pass them to their offspring, but wiping out these defective genes could potentially put an end to these genetic disorders altogether.
The Cons of Gene Therapy:
Lack of Understanding
Gene therapy is such a controversial topic in large part to the lack of knowledge that exists surrounding this type of medical treatment. Most people do not fully understand what gene therapy actually entails or any of the safety issues involving this type of treatment for genetic disorders. With more research and understanding increased clarity can be gained.
Clinical Trial Results
Gene therapy clinical trials have not been effective as one would hope. So far any real benefits have only been short-lived. The only way to get long term results through gene therapy is to continue with research. Drug therapy does not allow for a cure, but it does treat the symptoms effectively and is the tried and true method for dealing with genetic disorders. Changing the preferred course of treatment is not likely any time soon.
Ethical and Religious Issues
Many people are against gene therapy, because it involves changing the genetic makeup that we were born with. Many religious supporters feel that this is intrusive and not what was intended by nature. This controversy involving gene therapy is not going anywhere any time soon.