Gene Therapy: The Key to Making Humans Disease Free?
By Kaspar Schmidt
Whenever one imagines the word therapy it’s usually in the context of someone suffering a mental breakdown and needing to be taken to a shrink for getting electric shocks. Similarly, gene Therapy may sound like some corrective measure undertaken when a gene in one’s body getting fed up with life, going crazy and needing counseling. Though very simply put, according to the FDA, it’s a process in which a malfunctioning gene in deactivated and a normally functioning one is added to a body.
Obviously, this process is infinitely more difficult than it sounds and needs a bit more effort than firing the bad gene, putting out an advertisement for interested genes, interviewing them and asking the best gene to come to work Monday morning.
Gene Therapy was first tested on a person in 1990 and scary side effects were encountered though not as scary as having grown a tail or another foot, but they were enough to scuttle the whole process a bit. Scientists, unlike normal people, have a peculiar habit of not giving up and in 2016 have proclaimed that they are closer than ever.
Scientists at Milan’s San Rafael Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy reported that they had managed to cure 18 children of a rare disease called ADA-SCID which terribly affects the immune system. To achieve this they removed the children’s bone marrow added a gene which ensured the production of the ADA enzyme they lacked and then put the marrow back. Sounds so easy. Well, most of the human population isn’t even capable of repairing a bicycle’s puncture. And this particular gene treatment took 14 years to develop. 14 years just to figure out how to remove a bone marrow add a gene and put the marrow back.
How much does it cost? Well, they want $665,000 for the above treatment, maybe if we bribe our body with half of the amount it itself might start producing the gene.
Plus the pricing of this above treatment is modeled exactly like hair loss therapies.Grew your hair back after 14 days of treatment? No? Then here’s your money back. Got the gene added to your body which successfully resulted in ADA enzyme production? No? Then here’s your money back.
People believe that a cure for Hemophilia, a bleeding disorder which makes an annual hole of about $200,000 to $1M per year in people’s pocket via this gene therapy might just be the break it needs. It affects about 1 in 5000 people, hence is a lot more common. Though expect both scientific and political hurdles, as Bayer sells about $10 billion dollars per year worth of the current hemophilia treatment and maybe they won’t take a much cheaper cure lying down.
There’re other path-breaking uses proposed which might result in gene therapy making humans disease free. Doctors inserted a gene from a light sensing algae into a human which can potentially allow him to see. But for the case where a perfectly sighted person isn’t able to see a car before ramming into it? Well, no algae can help you there. A form of gene editing which seeks to reprogram a faltering gene either by coercing, bribing or blackmailing it is also being proposed. Genetic editing is believed to aid in eliminating certain types of cancer.
Daily in the news, there are reports about how gene therapy helped a woman fight cancer, how it restored hearing and balance and also made mice glow like fireflies. Though we imagine not many people would have a glowing mouse on their priority lists. And having said all that, a genetic therapy for a guy who blames his genes for his stupidity, laziness might not be possible.
Gene Therapy promises to provide humans with not just relief but a remedy. Such a reprogramming of the human body, where a faltering cog is replaced with a proper one, might just someday ensure, that humans may lead a fulfilling disease free life, where in they can freely and passionately whine and rant against their neighbor without a care in the world.
Kaspar Schmidt is the man behind https://haplomaps.com, a website where you can find unique haplogroup maps, that are very useful to visualize and explore human DNA distribution worldwide and also read original articles, related to ancestry DNA, human Genetics and Genealogy.