Gene therapy, is a technique that is rarely used today. Although many studies support its effectiveness in treating diseases it is still not in use as it should be. This isn't surprising, technologies in medicine tend to require a lot of time to mature.
Gene therapy works through many techniques. The general idea is that with gene therapy you modify the genes in the cells of an organism to treat some disease. You can do so in many different ways and i will explain in this article the three best ways gene therapy is or will be used to change medicine in the future.
- Stem Cell Editing
Stem Cells can be collected through various ways. This includes bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. Those cells can be used to treat a patient and they tend to work very well. For some diseases though, or for particular patients you need cells that express specific genes. One common reason is immune reaction. By editing the genes of a stem cell, the donor might not be identical to the recipient in terms of immune attributes, but it's cells can be edited to match the recipient more easily through gene editing. You can also genetically engineer cells to produce proteins that counteract the consequences of a certain disease. If those cells engraft, you can enhance the quality of life of the patient.
- Microbiome editing
The microbes inside and on our bodies can affect us in many ways. We have gut bacteria that help us digest and skin bacteria that protect us from other, harmful bacteria. We keep discovering more and more how those organisms live with us and how they help us be healthy every day. When they are in trouble we may be too. Microbes can cause disease, and there are various ways to treat that. Foods can be an effective way of altering the composition of microbes in the human body, by changing your diet for a significant period of time. When this is not enough, another possibility is to introduce to your body genetically engineered microbes that are tested in the lab and are guaranteed to help you with a condition.
- Tissue editing
Another way of editing the genes to cure diseases, is to just edit them in the body. By just injecting the patient with a modified virus that will edit the patients genes in a very predictable and desirable way, we can cure diseases like sickle cell anemia. This is probably one of the riskiest methods of doing gene therapy but it can work if performed correctly. Studies in mice have worked without any side effects, but a lot of clinical trials will have to be done successfully to determine whether this is a good option.
All three gene editing methods are great and i am sure we will find many more in the future. I think that the future of medicine involves therapies rather than drugs, that offer treatments rather than symptom alleviation over time.
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