A success for gene therapy
June 7, 2001 11:49 AM   Subscribe

A success for gene therapy to help hemophiliacs is announced. This is a first, but only time will tell if the treatment has a lasting effect and can be repeated. So far it's worked for only four of the six patients in the trial. The NY Times explains the research.
posted by caraig (5 comments total)
this is an interesting application of gene therapy. when i took my bioethics philosophy class, i remember gene therapy used mostly in the sense that one goes over, with a doctor, what egg cells have been identified with in their genes, what is desirable and what's not, and what should be thrown out with the trash. actually altering the genetic makeup is arguably more humane, and i'm glad to see they've made some headway. but of course, the controversy is over what specific applications gene therapy can be used for; hemophilia is one thing, but would it be ethical to alter genes that might have (some) influence on sexual orientation?
posted by moz at 2:30 PM on June 7, 2001

but would it be ethical to alter genes that might have (some) influence on sexual orientation?

Not only unethical, but impossible as well. IMO the hype about gene manipulation far exceeds the reality of what's feasible.
posted by caraig at 8:59 PM on June 7, 2001

There has been serious progress in using genetic engineering for a treatment for cystic fibrosis. In that case what they're doing is real science fiction: they're creating a synthetic adenovirus (a relative of the virii which cause the "common cold") which will infect the cells which line the lungs and inject into them a missing gene. The patient sits and breaths air fed from a special machine which contains an aerosol which includes these viruses. The treatment has to be repeated every few months as the cells lining the lungs grow old and die and are replaced from below (as do all surface epithelial cells). It's really exciting.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:32 PM on June 7, 2001

I don't see why it wouldn't be ethical to alter genes that have some influence on sexual orientation, but we don't know which genes these are, or if there even are any that determine sexual orientation reliably, and we're a long ways from being able to change all the cells in an entire organism.
posted by kindall at 9:52 PM on June 7, 2001

That adenovirus aerosol treatment is so cool. I hope it works.
posted by caraig at 8:00 PM on June 8, 2001

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