Challenges in Gene Therapy – Learn Genetics

Posted: July 3, 2015 at 12:47 am


Gene Therapy

Challenges in Gene Therapy?

Gene therapy is not a new field; it has been evolving for decades. Despite the best efforts of researchers around the world, however, gene therapy has seen only limited success. Why?

Gene therapy poses one of the greatest technical challenges in modern medicine. It is very hard to introduce new genes into cells of the body and keep them working. And there are financial concerns: Can a company profit from developing a gene therapy to treat a rare disorder? If not, who will develop and pay for these life-saving treatments?

Let's look at some of the main challenges in gene therapy.

For some disorders, gene therapy will work only if we can deliver a normal gene to a large number of cellssay several millionin a tissue. And they have to the correct cells, in the correct tissue. Once the gene reaches its destination, it must be activated, or turned on, to make the protein it encodes. And once it's turned on, it must remain on; cells have a habit of shutting down genes that are too active or exhibiting other unusual behaviors.

Introducing changes into the wrong cells Targeting a gene to the correct cells is crucial to the success of any gene therapy treatment. Just as important, though, is making sure that the gene is not incorporated into the wrong cells. Delivering a gene to the wrong tissue would be inefficient, and it could cause health problems for the patient.

For example, improper targeting could incorporate the therapeutic gene into a patient's germline, or reproductive cells, which ultimately produce sperm and eggs. Should this happen, the patient would pass the introduced gene to his or her children. The consequences would vary, depending on the gene.

Our immune systems are very good at fighting off intruders such as bacteria and viruses. Gene-delivery vectors must be able to avoid the body's natural surveillance system. An unwelcome immune response could cause serious illness or even death.

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Challenges in Gene Therapy - Learn Genetics

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