Genetic modification in people, also called gene therapy, is designed to prevent disease, disabilities, mutations and viruses. Genes are made up of DNA and hold all our genetic information. They provide instructions for our cells regarding what proteins and enzymes to produce, growth, eye colour, development, health and the list goes on (Betterhealth.vic.gov.au, 2019). In humans, genes can vary in size from a few hundred DNA bases to more than 2 million bases. The Human Genome Project estimated that humans have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes in our bodies (C, Reference, 2019).
However, genes can also get damaged and if not treated it can lead to many disorders which once out of hand can be hard to fix.
Gene therapy is only used by doctors if there is no other treatment option for the disorder as it is still a new method of treatment in which experiments are still being conducted. Genetic mutations are a gene or genes which contain a mistake that disrupts the gene message and can be caused by a number of things such as damaged cells or they could be inherited and make faulty genes (Betterhealth.
vic.gov.au, 2019). Faulty genes lead to a number of different diseases, disabilities, mutations and viruses which could potentially be treated with gene therapy. The gene therapy basic process consist of identifying the specific faulty gene which is causing a certain condition, then locating all the affected areas around the body before removing some of the faulty genes (Betterhealth.vic.gov.au, 2019). With the removed genes, new stem cells are able to be grown to make a healthy version of the original gene or introduce a new gene that can cure the disorder or modify its effects on the body (B, Reference, 2019). The now healthy grown stem cells are placed back in the cell of the patient where the condition will heal itself.
If you are looking to go through gene therapy for yourself or child then you need to be aware of the possible risks that could occur. Their body might not respond to the new working gene as if it is one of its own, causing inflammation and pain in the surrounding area. The disease or virus that has been removed from the stem cells and replaced with working genes could have affected or damaged other cells around it. When those damaged cells go through mitosis, they duplicate more faulty and damaged cells, causing the same virus to spread. The working gene might start producing too much of the once missing enzyme, protein or gene, leading to overactive cells. If the working gene is placed in the wrong spot then that poses many health risks to the childs wellbeing later in life (Betterhealth.vic.gov.au, 2019). As gene therapy is still fairly new, experiments are still being conducted to learn the extent that gene therapy can cure and ensure the best outcome every time, without the virus returning.
An example of a disease that can be fixed with gene therapy would be X-linked severe combined immune deficiency (X-SCID), which means children with this disease dont have a working immune system and cant fight infections or disease. These children have to live their lives on medication unless they can be given a matched bone marrow transplant. Through gene therapy they are able to cure this virus by taking bone marrow out of the childs body and growing it to produce healthy stem cells. The bone marrow stem cells are then infected with a virus carrying a working copy of the X-SCID gene before returning those cells back to the childs body where it will fight off the virus (Betterhealth.vic.gov.au, 2019). Gene therapy is now only given to those with no other treatment options as problems have occurred over the past and more experiments are being conducted.
In conclusion, society will benefit from advances in genetic engineering such as gene therapy regarding being able to treat diseases, disabilities, mutations and viruses. However, not all forms of genetic engineering could prove to not benefit society, such as cosmetic choices or child sex selection. As proved, it is possible that in the future doctors will be able to treat disorders using gene therapy, by inserting a gene into a patients cells instead of using drugs or surgery (A, Reference, 2019). Society will benefit from advances in gene therapy relating to fixing and healing diseases, disabilities, mutations and viruses as a larger number of people will be healthier, disease minimised and live a more productive life.