SCI 115 Introduction to Biology
Professor James Cox
August 27, 2018
Genes play a very important role in every living creature. Genes are where our DNA is lives. They control form and function of human beings. A persons genes identifies connects heritage as well as the cause for behavior and lifestyles. Issues such as physical health, sexual preference and deviant behavior are all linked to genes (Clinard, 4). Research shows that genes are the reason for deviant and criminal behavior such as rape and other criminal behavior (Schmalleger, 2). The gene factor contributes to the cause and stability in behavior. “Nearly sixty percent of the variance in violent crime was attributable to genetic factors” (Regoli, 7).
According to Starr, Evers & Starr (2013), there are over 15,000 genetic disorders that are classified as “serious” and they cause at least 20 percent of infant deaths in a year and they are the cause of half of all mentally ill patients and one fourth of patients who are hospitalized. Gene disorders also contribute to age-related issues. Gene Therapy is done by transferring DNA into the body to correct any genetic defects. This process takes place through lipid clusters or genetically engineered viruses and an unmutated gene is inserted in the patient’s chromosomes (Starr, 1). Malfunctioning genes causes sickness and disease such as: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, etc. The purpose of Gene therapy is to replace or correct bad genes to help fight off diseases such as hemophilia and AIDS in addition to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and cystic fibrosis. Some genes become mutated and stop operating properly or stop working all together and they have to be replaced with good genes. There is a gene called p53 which prevents the growth of tumors (Mayo Clinic, 5). Mutated genes can also be turned off and will prevent the diseases from entering the body and when healthy genes are turned on this helps prevent diseases from entering the body. The immune system also plays a big part of gene therapy because it can be trained to recognize cells that pose a threat to the body.
The two (2) types of Gene Therapy are: Somatic gene therapy and Germline gene therapy. In Somatic gene the good gene introduced to a target cells. The patient’s children are still susceptible to getting a disease because the gene therapy is not passed on to the child. Although gene therapy is done through clinical trial, the Somatic therapy is still the most common of the two to be administered (KidsHealth, 3). It is not known when Somatic mutations enter the body and it is only found in a select group of cells which are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. According to Genetic Home Reference, Somatic mutations leads to “mosaicism” when it is found in a single cell in the early embryonic stages. Hereditary mutations are just as the name states it is hereditary and it is present in every cell of the body. Hereditary mutation takes place as soon as the sperm and egg connect and the egg is fertilized (U.S National Library of Medicine, 8).
Germline gene therapy is different because in this process the offspring is affected. The gene changes the egg or sperm and it passes the genetic changes to the offspring, therefore; it affects any future children. Experiments have been done by injecting DNA into mouse eggs once they are fertile and once the mice became adults their offspring had generated new genes. This form of therapy is not the most popular and causes a lot of debate. Due to the various ethical and technical reasons, which will be discussed in the next section, there is little research done on Germline gene therapy (KidsHealth, 3).
In order for gene therapy to be effective it must first be determined the type of genes that cause and the type of gene that causes the disease in question. There is a project called The Human Genome Project and they work in conjunction with international agencies that map the 25,000 genes in the body. Scientist believe this will help to discover and implement strategies that will diagnose, cur and one day prevent diseases. They are hopeful that Gene Therapy will be able to treat prevent disease in unborn children (KidsHealth, 3).
Social and Ethical Implications
In 1992, the March of Dimes sponsored a survey in which thirty-eight percent of the participants said the genetic testing should be discontinued. There are four primary ethical concerns regarding the use of Gene Therapy. Autonomy – the patient the self-governing right to participate in the testing and they have the right to control the future of the genetic material and how DNA is stored; Legal – the legal process in place to protect the patient’s integrity. They have the right to be informed and control the activity of all tissue removed from their body; Privacy – there is the risk of patience information remaining private. Access to patient information must be monitored and limited; and Confidentiality – the information gathered in gene therapy is very sensitive and should remain confidential. Not only are the documents sensitive but patients are being exposed during exams and other procedures. The doctor’s must not violate patient confidentiality; they must honor the Hippocratic Oath to protect the patient’s privacy from insurance companies, family members, etc. Another ethical concern is when children are involved. Children that have the gene therapy are at risk of have effects ranging from mild to severe. It is difficult to determine the severity especially in infants. Sometimes children are not be effected by the genetic problem but they have to deal with mental anguish of knowing that there is medical condition going on in their body and it can flare up at any time (NCBI, 6).
Personal View Point
My opinion on gene therapy is divided. I would be in favor of somatic therapy to prevent heart disease or cancer and other serious illness. I would seriously consider germline, however; I feel parents should teach good eating habits and exercise to help reduce heart disease. I definitely would not support in utero therapy. This process is designed to stop things such as memory loss and balding that are a natural part of life and growing older. I would consider it for the prevention of memory loss regarding Alzheimer’s disease.
Surveys have been done to get public views and opinions on Gene therapy. 1999, the citizens in the UK were asked to participate in a survey conducted by National Center for Social Research. This survey was to shed light on and expand the knowledge of research on the subject. The participants were first requested to read a magazine about Gene therapy followed by a face to face survey and finally a phone interview. With technology and resources today, there should be better ways to find cures instead of altering a person’s genes. This is a risky process that should be seriously considered before trying on a patient.
Scientist should consider the risk factors and life-threatening diseases associated with gene therapy. Gene therapy seems to involve disrupting the natural process of healing and rejuvenating
Cecie Starr, 2013, Biology Today and Tomorrow without Physiology
Frank Schmalleger, 2016, Criminology
Marshall B. Clinard, 2011, Social Deviant Behavior
Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/gene-therapy/about/pac-20384619
NCBI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236044/Robert M. Regoli, 2014, Delinquency In Society
U.S National Library of Medicine, https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/therapy/