Will Gene Editing Prove Useful against Incurable Diseases?

Will Gene Editing Prove Useful against Incurable Diseases?
Will Gene Editing Prove Useful against Incurable Diseases?

Will Gene Editing Prove Useful against Incurable Diseases?

How gene editing could cure diseases that are incurable?

With the series of medical advancement in healthcare sector such as organ transplantation, stem cell therapy and cloning there is a new possibility added to it in the name of ‘Gene Editing’. Genes are responsible for the offsprings to have their parental features getting inherited, phenotypically and genotypically. At the same time, genes also determine the health condition of a generation for better or worse. 

In the agricultural sector, an annual paddy crop is made as six-month crop and a yield of one acre made within half an acre is possible only through genetic manipulation of plants. With these genetic advancements and accomplishments, the scarcity arising out of increasing population has been averted. In the area of animal breeding too genetic advancement has been taking place. Similarly, it has been happening with human population where genetic and molecular amendments have been tried through research and development. In spite of voices against genetically modified organisms growing far and high, the research related to it has been unstoppable. There are some benefits out of those efforts too.

At this juncture, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in England has recommended its government last week ‘to use genetic editing methodology to cure the diseases that are incurable so far and also other diseases of inheritance’. It has also submitted the research findings it has gathered so far. Based on its efforts the British Ethics Panel has been planning to consider their recommendations.

We enquired Uthra Sadagopan, who has been working with a research organization, Centre for Medical Genetics, about “What is meant by gene editing and what are its benefits?”

“There are innumerable cells in human body. There are 23 pairs of chromosomes within the nucleus of each cell. There are thousands of genes found in each chromosome. The changes that take place in those genes will reflect on the physical nature and its characteristic features of an organism. 
Therefore, removing a particular gene or combining one prudently with the other is called Gene Editing or Genetic Engineering.

This innovative technology helps in creating a new type of cell with all its beneficial features and creating an entity of cell with a new feature that we intend to have. Further, it helps in removing or modifying a particular gene that is identified to be responsible for causing a particular disease. By this process of removing or amending a particular cell, this technology can be used as a therapy in treating the disease. 

With this technology we can cure a particular type of disease; we can create a particular gene with its beneficial features; we can modify as per our objectives of benefits; we can create a new plant or an animal. Research has been in progress towards ensuring the possibilities of treating heritable diseases, cancers, Down syndrome and infertility. There are, of course, success stories by virtue of these researches. 
For example, a few years ago, there was a girl in the U.S. who suffered from leukemia, a kind of blood related cancer. Gene editing technique was followed to cure her disease condition. They found  a considerable progress in her treatment. The results were presented in the conference organized by the American Society of Hematology, last December. 

Similarly, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in England has recommended the technology to be used towards curing certain disease conditions that are incurable at present by other therapies. The same idea has also been recommended by the American Journal of Medical Sciences and American Medical Association. But there are reasons for many other countries who hesitate to implement the technology in their countries as there are possibilities to misuse the technology of gene editing. But this kind of technology should be welcomed as they have the scope of alternative therapies in the field of medicine and healthcare. Uthra is of the opinion that the technology of gene editing is expected to be implemented at the earliest.

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(This article written in Tamil by G Lakshmanan has been transcreated in English by V Amalan Stanley)

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