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Gene Therapy

Introduction

The nature of human existence exposes them to various risks that have negative effects on their wellbeing. Before the developments in science and advances in technology, humans experienced various health problems that compromised their wellbeing in different ways. However, transformations in the abovementioned fields have made it possible for them to resolve a wide range of medical challenges. One of the latest developments, gene therapy, seeks to address the underlying problem to certain health complications including viral infections and inherited disorders. Although use of this technology has significant benefits to human health, it presents certain risks that are potentially harmful to the wellbeing of the users. Understanding both the advantages and downsizes of the scientific initiative is instrumental in informing objective decision making. The purpose of this research is to provide an in depth review of gene therapy including the social and ethical implications.

Gene Therapy

This is an experimental methodology that medical scientists use to fix genetic problems by treating or and preventing diseases (Giacca, 2010). Specifically, they deliver nucleic acid polymers therapeutically into the cells of the affected individuals. The genes in this regard are used instead of surgical procedures and drugs. The main purpose for introduction of the genes is to replace mutated genes with healthy copies of similar genes, inactivate malfunctioning genes, or introduce new genes that can help the systems fight diseases with ease (Giacca, 2010). In order to perform the function for which they are meant for, the genes are delivered by genetically engineered vectors.

In most instances, certain distinctive viruses are employed as vectors because of their ability to infect the cells of the patients. However, they are modified in such a way that they cannot cause infections or diseases in patients. They work in different ways but ultimately, they deliver the gene to its destination safely. While some like retroviruses work by integrating their genetic material in the chromosomes of the patients, others such as adenoviruses simply introduce their DNA in the respective cells without necessarily incorporating the same in the cell chromosomes (Blankenstein, 2012). With respect to the mode of delivery, the vectors can be directly injected into a specific tissue or the sample of affected individual’s cells can be removed and subjected to the respective vector. Usually, this is undertaken under ideal laboratory conditions, after which the cells are returned to the patient. In order to attain optimal results, scientists ensure that they deliver the genes to target cells safely.

Typically, there are two types of gene therapy; germ-line or reproductive and somatic cell (Blankenstein, 2012). In the former, corrective genes are delivered in the reproductive cells of the patient. The main goal of this is to develop a positive genetic change that is then transmitted to the descendant. In the later, the genetic changes are restricted to the recipient and not passed on to subsequent generations. It targets treatment of diseases or disorders affecting specific organs of the patient (Blankenstein, 2012).

Moral and Social Implications

Each of the abovementioned therapies present unique social and moral implications because of different effects that they have on the welfare of the patients. With respect to the beneficial aspects of somatic therapy, the approach is useful for treating patients that are desperately ill and who risk to lose their lives. In addition, it prevents onset of certain dreadful medical complications and allows health professionals to employ the best available modes of treatment (Feinberg, 2006). However, the procedures are irreversible and mistakes lead to life threatening health complications. There are various options, such as nutritional therapies that medical scientists can use to treat genetic disorders. Further, somatic therapy has the ability to modify or enhance human capabilities that are otherwise not related to the diseases.

Being a permanent solution to genetic problems, germ line therapy can cure several diseases or problems and solve medical issues effectively. According to Feinberg (2006), it is currently the only way of treating certain genetic complications. Also, this approach is desirable because it secures the health of subsequent generations by eliminating harmful genetic defects. Nonetheless, the process is complex, constituting of various steps whose outcomes have not been determined. Negative results emanating from these uncertainties can have far reaching effects on the human race. Further, Giacca (2010) argues that it encourages genetic modifications that have profound effects on human traits. The moral and ethical concerns of such threats include stigmatization or discrimination and can be detrimental. Finally, besides being complex, the procedure is expensive and as such, it cannot benefit the entire society. Put differently, it can only be accessed by the rich and hence, according it priority perpetuates social inequality.

Personal Opinion

Advances in medical science and technology have beneficial impacts on the holistic wellbeing of humans. They enhance their quality of life by preventing and treating diseases and health disorders. Use of gene therapy is an effective and sustainable way of treating complex health problems. It is justifiable because it eliminates pain and suffering and enhances the wellbeing of future generations. However, it is worth noting that scientific research regarding the implications of its numerous procedures is unknown. These can be potentially harmful and as such, conclusive investigations should be undertaken before its implementation. Patients should be informed about the advantages and disadvantages of the procedures before they undergo them. Regardless of the challenges, gene therapy remains the only option of curing certain health disorders that undermine the wellbeing of humans and threaten human existence. If the negative effects of the procedures and underlying uncertainties are addressed, it is useful for enhancing and promoting productive and healthy lifestyles that the current society desires. From an ethical point of view, this technology reduces the degree of pain and suffering of both current populations and future generations.

Conclusion

Dangerous human activities and exposure to various environments compromises their health, wellbeing, and threatens their existence. Humans suffer from a host of diseases and health disorders that prevent them from leading satisfying lifestyles. As a medical and scientific advancement, gene therapy focusses on addressing certain health concerns that humans struggle with. It involves introduction of genes in the cells of humans to replace disordered genes, introduce new genes that can fight diseases, or inactivate malfunctioning genes. Desirable genes are delivered to target destinations through genetically engineered vectors. It is an emergent promising treatment alternative that can save lives and prevent complex diseases. However, the effects are permanent, irreversible, and mistakes can have devastating effects. The procedures are complex and some of their implications are currently unknown. What is more, the procedures are expensive and the permanent effects that they have on human character and traits can be detrimental. Regardless of these social and moral controversies, gene therapy technology can be useful in resolving the existent medical problems if it is used effectively.

References

Blankenstein, T. (2012).Gene therapy: Principles and applications. Germany: Birkhauser Basel.

Feinberg, R. (2006). Ethical issues in gene therapy research: An American perspective. Gene Therapy, 99-107.

Giacca, M. (2010).Gene therapy. New York: Springer.