Top 20 Gene Therapy Pros and Cons

gene therapy pros and cons
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Gene Therapy Pros and Cons: Gene therapy is involved in the replacement of a defective gene within a cell’s nucleus with the genetically healthy and functional gene. It is also known as ‘Gene Augmentation‘. Genes are basically nitrogenous based codes that encode secret information of all of the amino acid formation in the body.

Types of Gene Therapy

In a simpler terms, there are 2 types of Gene therapy namely:

A) Somatic Gene Therapy: This type of gene therapy involves the transferring of a section of DNA to a somatic cell (example: bone cells) to another. The effects of somatic gene therapy will not pass onto the patient’s offspring.

B) Germline Gene Therapy: In this type of gene therapy, a section of DNA of an egg or sperm cell is transferred to another reproductive cell. The effects of germline gene therapy will transfer onto the patient’s children and following generations.

Gene Therapy Flow Chart
Gene Therapy Flow Chart (Source: Wikimedia)

As protein’s building blocks are amino acid and a single change in any single information regarding amino acid synthesis will yield disastrous results so; genes are crucially important in normal body functioning.

Suggested Reading: Genetic Determinism

Diseases in which genes are involved have long been dreaded as they till now they have been severe and incurable. These disorders can only be managed with the help of significant changes in lifestyle and with some aid from medications. But now gene therapy has somehow alleviated the hazards of these disorders.

Gene therapy certainly likes so many others has both positive as well as negative aspects. Some of them are listed below:

Top 10 Pros of Gene Therapy

Here are some of the pros or advantages of gene augmentation therapy:

1. Genetic Disorders Are Treatable

Rare genetic disorders today affect about 10% of the population in general. Over 7000 distinct diseases exist today and out of which almost 80% are those which are caused by malfunctioning genes. With the help of gene therapy, these diseases are now curable and provide patients with a licit treatment.

2. New Field of Medicine

Gene therapy can provide a chance of treatment of even those diseases that currently don’t have a treatment protocol. Even age involved disorders like Alzheimer’s disorder, Parkinson’s diseases, and Huntington’s disease, etc. which have a genetic basis can be provided with medications and drugs formulated by gene therapy research work.

3. Beacon of Light

In so many cases about 1 out of 33% in the US (about 3% of total births), babies experience some sort of genetic defect. These congenital defects are a leading cause in deaths of newborn infants probably 1 in 5 fatalities.

With the help of gene therapy risks of some of these genetic disorders can be corrected. In such a way gene therapy is a source of hope and comfort to so many families and especially to the parents of such special babies.

4. Diversified Options

Gene therapy provides a strong basis of treatment for those individuals who suffer from infertility and opportune them with starting their own biological families.

Using an adjusted and modified genetic therapy method called “CRISPR“, proper alterations to fertility have occurred in specific mice species. This definitely clears the way for developing such effect in humans in the coming future.

5. Equal Applications in Non-Humans

Gene therapy is not mainly reserved for humans only. This can be applied to plants as well as animals. This therapy provides the basis for the extension of their lifespan, stabilizing their health and genetic conditions if present.

Natural immune systems of plants and particular species, as well as food-providing animals, can be altered and modified to give solid defense against any attacking disease preventing extinction or endangerment of those species.

Suggested Reading: Woolly Mammoth Clone Project

6. Basis of New Potential Discoveries

More lifesaving options are available with the help of gene therapy now, so more people mean more diversity and perspectives for future research. By saving the lives of people today, gene therapy can provide a stage for many more potential discoveries in the coming era by those who might not survive without this therapy.

Sure enough, many ethical questions are raised regarding this therapy, but its benefits cannot be neglected as well.

7. Technology-based Therapy

So many of previous discoveries were directly or indirectly based on natural sources like antibiotics were discover by Alexander Fleming in 1928 when he noticed the killing of bacteria in petri dish due to peculium mold.

Suggested Reading: History of Immunology

Gene therapy is mostly based on technology and our ability to identify, modify and alter specific genes. So, advancement in this field can be achieved at a much faster rate, and as practices or quality of such therapies improves, a decrease in the costs of these therapies will be possible.

8. Increases Lifespan

When specific changes are made in genes for curing a problem, then overall lifespan can be improved of a person’s life. Genetically disordered persons live a very miserable life, and most of them cannot make up for long so gene therapy can help them to live a healthy and long life.

9. Enhances Overall Health

How wondrous can it be if a future risk of the cardiovascular disorder can be treated not by statins but by gene therapy that will boost a person’s own natural biological processes?

Better blood flow, muscle mass, and so many related benefits yielded with the help of this therapy can entirely change the prospects of treatment and prevention.

10. Offers Large-Scale Treatment

Heredity diseases have a chance of cascading down from generations to generations. So if an individual has a genetic disorder, its likely to be present in his offspring’s as well.

Gene therapy can act as a plug by blocking by passing down of such hazardous defects.

Top 10 Cons of gene therapy

On contrary, let us review some of the disadvantages or cons of gene therapy:

1. Serious Ethical Concerns

Gene therapies are done by several genetic disorders’ treatments. But there are so many aspects of this technology that lead to serious ethical questions.

Like if gene therapy is used to create sheer ‘perfection’ in children or it might create a new social class of “created” people, normal humans do have serious threats from this therapy.

Suggested Reading: Top Bioethical Issues

2. Religious Concerns

Manipulation of the genetic makeup of man is absolutely unacceptable to persons with strong convictions and religious beliefs. From a religious perspective, it is an interference with Nature’s will be altering genes.

3. Ineffective Approach to Medical Science

Many clinical trials have only been successful till now which involve gene therapies. So many abstract outcomes rely on gene therapy if it works one day, but till now its impractical therapy.

Because researchers have found evidence of reversal of natural gene function even after treatment of the problem.

4. Might Not Be Long-Term Effective

New generations of bacteria have started to develop resistance against antibiotics despite their discovery less than a century ago. So many infections today are the reason for the death of people as they develop due to extremely resistant bacteria.

Gene therapy which today is considered ultimate treatment solution might face such outcomes in future.

Suggested Reading: Types of Antibodies

5. Expensive Option

Even if other cons are ignored of this therapy, gene therapy is a costly treatment option of an ordinary man. This therapy can only be a comfort and reasonable opportunity for those who have strong financial backgrounds, hence creating segregation among people of the same society.

That patient’s family, which is unable to afford expensive medical treatment, pass through a depressing mental phase. The first approved and successful treatment cost 1 million dollars.

6. Currently Unreliable Delivery Method

Virus vectors are a common choice for delivery of gene in the host. There is a strong possibility that the patient’s body may react adversely to the newly introduced substance and its defensive mechanisms may not only consider it as antigen but also attack it.

Even if the immune system doesn’t prove to be a snag, cell replication and division are not predictable. Genetic changes attained as a result of this therapy may trigger a more grievous immune response.

Suggested Reading: What is Mitosis? | What is Meiosis?

7. Uninsured Results

Gene therapy may yield patient to the point on which he has to go on with the more complicated problem as compared to what he was facing originally. Genes are microstructures; anything can go wrong during a treatment method.

8. May Encourage Gene Doping

If the cost and availability of this therapy are ignored and if people are provided with an equal chance to avail of this therapy, it can surely equalize athletics or educational opportunities.

If a person succeeds only because of attained/gained intelligence or strength, this surely is a matter of sheer injustice with other participants.

9. Can Provide Unintended Side-Effects

There is no reliable information or researches on what side effects gene therapy may yield if applied. As close working with building blocks of the body is concerned in this therapy, it can create different mutations in future generations of the individual, may lead the way towards onset or creation of new hazardous diseases or it can merely reduce the quality of life of a concerned person.

10. Invasion of Privacy

Gene therapy, sure enough, intervenes in the privacy of family genetics as a detailed genetic background is required before the commencement of treatment.

In such way member of families with genetic defects may face certain issues in society; they can be segregated from normal persons when they will face promotion or demotion by their genetic status or when they will be affected with policy issuing terms of insurance companies.

At the end of the day, gene therapy is only applicable and useful if it is perfected. Without jumping the snags of all listed cons, gene therapy will not be as valuable as it can be.

It is the only ray of light for those who are suffering from the disease having no cure at all with medications except alternation of genes. And in this time of problems with which mankind is experiencing, this little hope should not get escaped.

All ethical and religious concerns should be reasoned with logical arguments as well as insurance to no gene doping should be made sure. Only then this method will be fruitful for all.

Cite this article as: "Top 20 Gene Therapy Pros and Cons," in Bio Explorer by Jack Kirsten, December 26, 2018, https://www.bioexplorer.net/gene-therapy-pros-cons.html/.

References

  • “Curing Genetic Disease with Gene Therapy”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
  • “The Future of Gene Therapy”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
  • “Data & Statistics on Birth Defects | CDC”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
  • “Gene transfer to sperm and testis: future prospects of gene therapy for male infertility. – PubMed – NCBI”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
  • “Gene Therapy | Learn Science at Scitable”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
  • “Gene Therapy Successes”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
  • “Challenges In Gene Therapy”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
  • “Tracking the Cost of Gene Therapy – MIT Technology Review”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
  • “Gene Therapy in Sports: Gene Doping | Learn Science at Scitable”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
  • “Gene therapy on the move”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
  • “Genetic Testing: Remarkable Resource or Invasion of Privacy?”. Accessed December 25, 2018. Link.
Top 20 Gene Therapy Pros and Cons
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