Historical Novel Advances on Medicine and Its Derivatives

Medicine and its derivatives have made countless novel advances throughout history, developing in tandem with the human species itself. We have gone from primitive cavemen, using fire to seal wounds, to a society, at least in America, which can prevent and cure some of the once deadliest afflictions. We pride ourselves in being able to treat illness, overcome pain and constantly seek new ways to improve upon current methods, eternally questing for an improved quality of life. However, it is often the case that along with new ideas and procedures moral and ethical debates develop, asking what limits should be imposed upon the implementation of our knowledge. Such is the case of gene therapy, a controversial field seeking to improve human life, but in a manner that many see as disagreeable.

Gene therapy can be defined as the treatment of certain disorders, especially those caused by genetic anomalies or deficiencies, by introducing specifically engineered genes into a patient’s cells. It comes in two distinct forms, each of which must be looked at separately because of their distinctly different applications for the future of medicine and human society. Somatic gene therapy entails the alteration of genes within non-reproductive cells, all cells excluding sperm and eggs, thus theoretically having no influence upon the genetic make-up of future generations. However, germ-line gene therapy is the specific alteration of sperm or egg, thus having not only an effect upon the immediate progeny but also on all successive generations.

Yet, before the ethical implications of such practices can be discussed, one must have an idea of why such procedures would be developed in the first place. Many of the most degenerative and debilitating diseases: Huntington”s chorea, sickle-cell anemia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, hemophilia and some “2,800 [other] specific conditions are known to be caused by defects (mutations) in just one of the patient”s genes

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