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Ethical and tecnical issues on germline 'therapy' in Homo Sapeins.


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We have used germline on other animals. Why should it not be used on humans?


Somatic gene therapy for CF is an example - major problems getting the adenoviruses to the target cells in the lungs. Either we have to many viral genes expressed (big immune response) or not enough to get past the immune system.


Most scientists say we shouldn't use germline on humans but some might say we have been using it on mice (and other non-human animals) for a while.


Any views on this? (erm, no theists please!).

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Gene therapy is always a hot potato, but not for any airy fairy ethical reasons. Quite simply, people have died during gene therapy, and safety is at issue.


Once we nail down the safety issues, no reason at all not to use the therapy. If it saves lives, great!

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Hiya, apologies that my initial post was badly composed and had spelling mistakes (e.g. homo sapeins rather than homo sapiens - not a good start!)


What I was aiming to ask is simply "Is germline gene therapy/modification technically easier to do than somatic gene therapy?"

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First of all thanks for asking a critical question. It is really important for us to think about such issues given the rapid pace at which science is advancing. The will probably become reality more quickly than we think.


Having said that,


I agree with SkepticLance that current understanding and technologies are mostly at its infancy, so we have a long way to go before we can apply them to human.


Is germline gene therapy technically easier to do somatic gene therapy?

I don't know enough about this topic to comment but I do want to point out three studies that just came out in Nature (very highly accredited scientific journal) showing that somatic cells can be reengineered into embryonic stem cells by controlling expression of four transciption factors. Three separate groups came to the same conclusion showing that re-engineered 'stem cells' have the potential to transmit germline, fully contribute to development, and differentiate into numerous types of cells in culture. Yes, this needs to be studied further but these studies definitely show that one day it might be possible to take cells from a patient, culture and engineered them in vitro, and transplant them back into organs (i.e. liver, heart) that are damage. I think if this technology is successfully establish we can put behind numerous ethical debate about use of germline/embryo in treatment.


If you are interested in reading/glancing at the articles they are in July 19th edition of Nature.



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