Posted on 06 March 2011 by admin
There are a number of risks associated with gene therapy. In the beginning phases, there can be problems that result from the way the genes are delivered. Because delivery of the gene into the cells by a direct method is not an easy process it usually requires delivery through something known as a vector which is another word for a carrier. Viruses are the most common types of gene therapy vectors because they can identify certain cells and transport genetic material to genes within the cells. There is research currently being conducted which calls for removing the genes that cause disease from the viruses and replacing them with a particular gene that is needed to end the disease. The process next calls for the altered viruses to be inserted into the diseased cells of a person where their genetic material can be delivered. There are risks associated with this process such as:
1. The Spreading of Virus-This is possible because more than one kind of cell can be affected by viruses and this process increases the likelihood of viral vectors infecting cells in addition to the cells for which they were intended which are the missing and mutated ones. If this occurs, cell that are healthy can become damaged which will cause additional diseases or illness, and sometimes even cancer.
2. Damage to the Immune System-When the viruses are first introduced, the immune system may perceive them as intruders and launch an attack. This can cause toxicity, inflammation, and in serious cases, the organs may begin to fail.
3. Virus Reverse-There is a possibility that when new genes are first introduced within the body that they turn back to their ability to cause disease.
4. Tumor Growth-If insertion of the genes is put in the wrong area of the genome, there is a possibility that the tumor formation can form as a result of the insertion. This has been evident in some clinical trial cases.
5. DNA Induction-when new DNA is introduced within the body this can have an affect on reproduction with the sperm in men and the egg cell in women. This can alter genes and affect children born following treatment.
The National Institute of Health and the FDA closely monitors clinical trials performed in the United States in the area of gene therapy in order to ensure safety regulations are met by individuals participating in the trials.