ICMR sets up a task force on gene therapy research

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News:Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) is setting up a task force on gene therapy research to encourage research in the emerging field.


About Gene therapy:

  • Gene Therapy refers to the process of introduction, removal or change in the content of an individual’s genetic material with the goal of treating the disease and the possibility of achieving long term cure.
  • Researchers are studying gene therapy for a number of diseases such as severe combined immuno-deficiencies, hemophilia, Parkinson’s disease, cancer among others.
  • The first gene therapy was successfully accomplished in the year 1989.

Types of Gene Therapy:Gene therapy classified into two types:

Somatic cell gene therapy (SCGT):

  • Somatic gene therapy involves the insertion of therapeutic DNA into body cells and not the germ cells or gametes.
  • This means any effects of the therapy are confined to the individual being treated and are not inherited by future offspring.
  • This technique is considered as the best and safest method of gene therapy.

Germ line gene therapy(GGT):

  • In GGT germ cells (sperm or egg cells) are modified by the introduction of functional genes into their genomes.
  • Modifying a germ cell causes all the organism’s cells to contain the modified gene.
  • The change is therefore heritable and passed on to later generations.
  • Germ line gene therapy is not legal in many places as the risks outweigh the rewards.

Application of Gene Therapy

  • It is used in the replacement of genes that cause medical ill-health
  • The method generally destroys the problem causing genes
  • It helps the body to fight against diseases by adding genes to the human body
  • This method is employed to treat diseases such as cancer, ADA deficiency, cystic fibrosis among others.

Challenges of Gene Therapy:

  • Delivering the gene to the right place and switching it is crucial.
  • Avoiding the immune response
  • Making sure the new gene doesn’t disrupt the function of other genes
  • Gene therapy often requires an individual case-by-case approach.This may be effective but may also be very expensive.
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