Many serious diseases have been linked to hereditary factors. Some of those include: Parkinson’s, Cystic Fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s. Scientists are finding that gene therapy can make a significant difference in diseases where an inappropriate gene activity exists.
Understanding Gene Therapy
Gene therapy can be dated back to 1972. Originally, concerns and reservations surrounded this form of treatment. It was tough for gene therapy to make a mark in human treatment methods. However, in 2017, this therapy gained great traction.
Using this method, healthcare professionals are able to use genes as a means to treat or prevent a particular disease. First, a mutated gene is identified. (The mutated gene is considered to be the cause of the disease.) Then, the “bad” gene is destroyed and replaced by a healthy new gene. One that helps the body fight the disease.
Gene therapy is considered to be an all-in-all treatment mechanism. Scientists believe that gene therapy has the potential to fight a number of serious diseases. Along with that, it may bring a revolution in the world of healthcare.
How Does Gene Therapy Work?
There are two ways in which gene therapy works. Initially, there’s the gene augmentation therapy. This is a process in which a mutated gene that is causing the disease is treated. Using this method, the mutated gene is replaced by a functioning one. Such type of therapy is ideal for diseases that can be reversed and ones that do not impact the body in significant ways. Cystic Fibrosis would be an example of this.
The second kind of therapy is the Gene Inhibition Therapy. This type is used to treat infectious or inherited diseases. In this method, the main objective is to suppress the malfunctioning gene. The goal is to eventually eliminate the function of the gene that is encouraging the growth of cells that are related to the disease. Cancer is a common example of such a disease.
Gene therapy is also used when there is a need to kill specific cells related to the growth of an illness. This is done a couple of ways. One is by causing the new DNA inserted to act like a suicide agent. Thus, it destroys all the harmful cells. Or, a new DNA is introduced that makes the body’s immune system target the cells that are causing the disease to grow.
Types of Gene Therapy
Gene therapy can be of two types. It just depends on the disease that is being treated and the kind of cells involved.
Somatic Gene Therapy: Such a therapy does not affect the body’s cells that play a role in producing sperm or eggs. Hence, this protects the future generation from the effects of the therapy.
Germline Gene Therapy: In such a type of therapy, the cells that play a role in the production of sperm and eggs are also included. Therefore, this means that the effects are also passed onto the children.
Gene therapy is a phenomenal introduction in the treatment of many serious diseases. So much research is being conducted and innovations are taking place. Gene therapy is expected to bring new hope to both the patients and the healthcare professionals. What do you think?