Germ Line Gene Therapy: Ethics and Regulations?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Gene therapy consists of modifying the DNA sequence to replace the gene coding for the disease with a healthy gene. Germ line gene therapy does this by targeting the germ cells; this means that once the egg is fertilised, every cell which descends from the egg contains the modified gene, and therefore the person will always be free of the disease.

Somatic cell gene therapy consists of altering the defective DNA of targeted body cells. This means that the effects will be short lived as the cells are destroyed and news ones with the 'defective' DNA are reproduced which causes the disease. With this approach, repeated treatments will be needed, and so is inefficient in comparison with germ line gene therapy.

As germ line gene therapy is associated with much controversy, where do people stand with it ethically? What kind of regulations are set in place to control the use of it?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
phyzguy
Science Advisor
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IMHO, germ line gene therapy is a good thing. If you have a genetic deficiency, isn't natural to want your children to be free from such a weakness? The overall result will be to rid the human race of known genetic deficiencies. Isn't this a good thing?
 
  • #3
Ryan_m_b
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
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IMHO, germ line gene therapy is a good thing. If you have a genetic deficiency, isn't natural to want your children to be free from such a weakness? The overall result will be to rid the human race of known genetic deficiencies. Isn't this a good thing?
It wouldn't require gene therapy to deal with this, you could screen the gametes for those that do not carry the defective allele (or if you were homozygous then screen your partner and the children when they want offspring).

Gene therapy isn't yet at the stage where genes can be inserted without a risk of causing damage to the existing DNA sequence. That's my biggest objection to its use. Furthermore our knowledge on the subject is so limited that there is really little we could do at this time that we could be sure of a result.
 

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