Just recently, in early March, a second patient was said to be cured of the HIV virus, a decade after the first. The HIV virus has devastated millions and with no cure but the fields of gene therapy have opened up new possibilities to curing this disease.
Gene therapy has opened up a new realm of scientific and medical treatments for patients. Only two years ago, a 9-year-old boy named Hassan, was suffering from junctional epidermolysis bullosa, a rare skin disease that made him lose 60% of his outer layer of skin. Using gene therapy, scientists were able to find a break, inserting a normal gene allowing him to regrow new skin. He is now living a normal life like many other kids his age.
The Conservation of Genetics, in simple terms, uses knowledge on genetics to preserve species. Gene therapy, a smaller slice of genetic knowledge uses genes to cure and treat disease. It is just one of many different methods of curing dangerous genetic diseases. Gene therapy is the process of correcting genetic diseases by replacing mutated genes with normal ones. Gene therapy has shown very promising signs starting from the early 2000s with reports of various cancers being cured.
More than 4000 diseases in humans are caused by genetic mutations; errors made in the duplication of the person’s DNA. In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already approved of 3 gene therapy methods and were being carried out. Although very early in development, gene therapy has been successful in treating patients with diseases such as Sickle Cell Anemia.
Gene therapy, in the long run, show it can bring longevity and can benefit taxpayers, as the treatment can indefinitely cure a disease. Gene therapy has already shown promising signs of curing multiple forms of cancer by inserting the foreign, normal gene directly into cancer cells. By doing so, the normal gene will attack and kill cancer cells, eliminating the need for other painful treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery.
However, gene therapy has also stirred a large amount of controversy, considerable with the ethics of the treatment. A Chinese scientist recently unsuccessfully tried to edit human embryos to have immunity against HIV. The world exploded and the act was considered unethical. Are we humans, allowed to create perfect human beings? The ethics of such acts are yet to be discussed.
Gene therapy has shown early promising signs for curing many diseases that were once considered untreatable. The treatment remains very risky and is probably not going to be a viable method of treatment for years to come. Despite the experimental nature of gene therapy in the moment, the recent advancements that have been made should encourage the continued pursuit of medical opportunities presented through gene therapy.
Dean Kim, Grade 9
Cleveland High School