Status of Gene Therapy

In class we have touched on the issues surrounding research progressing from animal models to human subjects and we have discussed the possibilities that personalized medicine and the human genome project pose for the future of health care. Gene therapy , in which researchers continue to search for effective but safe vectors to introduce the DNA of  “healthy” versions of genes into diseased patients, is highly related to these discussion topics. This technique offers a huge range of possibilities for countless genetic disorders, but it has many associated complications as well.

This article (accessible through Emory’s network) outlines the troubled past of gene therapy, its setbacks, current research being conducted in the field, and the future of the therapy. Until reading this article, I was unaware of the rocky history of gene therapy. I deemed this important to share with the class so that we would all have a more holistic view of a this development in medicine that has the potential to be viewed through a singular, highly optimistic lens.

Upon reading the gene therapy article, I investigated the death of Jesse Gelsinger and came across this NY Times article about his death and the research study that caused it. This story is a grave reminder of why there are so many regulations in medical research, and that even when everything seems to have been done properly there are still occasionally unpredictable outcomes.

I am interested in following the advancement of gene therapy in the upcoming years, especially since new techniques are expected to be approved in the U.S. by 2016. Gene therapy has the potential to drastically change the way we treat many diseases, but we must not forget the history behind it.

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