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Fixing God's mistakes by germline gene therapy

ramanp at my-dejanews.com ramanp at my-dejanews.com
Sat Jun 13 11:50:49 EST 1998

Germline gene therapy is an important area of genetic engineering that
involves the inclusion of a healthy gene into the germ cells (sperm or egg
cells) or into an early stage of the embryo with a particular genetic defect.
 It differs from somatic cell therapy because instead of just fixing a faulty
gene, every cell in the body, including the reproductive cells, acquire the
new gene.  Thus, this technique bears the potential of introducing a change
in not just the individual receiving the treatment, but can very well be
passed on to future generations.	 The potential application of
germline gene therapy was first illustrated by the shiverer mice which suffer
from tremors, convulsions and early death as a result of an abnormal
myelination of their CNS.  Researchers at the California Institute of
Technology have demonstrated that genetic alterations in the germ lines of
shiverer mice can result in transgenic mice that bear the healthy transgene
(capable of producing functional myelin) not only in their somatic cells but
also in their germ cells.  Also, this healthy transgene could be passed on to
future offsprings thus creating a generation free of the debilitating
symptoms of shiverer mice.	  Yet, most governments have raised serious
objections to the use of germ-line gene- transfer based on concerns regarding
possible obligations to future generations.  However, to my mind, the
advantages of germ line gene-transfer seem to outweigh the above concerns. 
Germline gene therapy presents the prospect of reducing and eventually even
completely eradicating certain inherited diseases in the future generations
to come.  Thus, with the advent of this therapy, it might be possible to
reconstruct a ‘society' free of some of the ‘deadly' genetic diseases. 
Afterall, all of us dream of a life without any diseases and sickness, don't
we?  Therefore, what would be wrong in trying to recreate a generation that
would be free of ceratin hereditary diseases like Cystic fibrosis, Multiple
sclerosis and many others.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to prune some
‘unwanted deadly' genes from our family trees forever?	  I would greatly
appreciate any thoughts, suggestions or comments that anybody might have on
this serious issue.					    Thanks,	     
				      Priya Raman

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