Imagine if a child was born with a genetic disease that would prove life-threatening, and all they could do was wait? Instead of tons of procedures and surgeries, doctors are finding new ways to treat patients. Germline therapy is one of those ways. The big question that has always surrounded gene therapy is how to effectively and safely deliver the right form of a gene to cells. Germline gene therapy (GGT) is the introduction of functional genes into their genomes DNA is transferred into the cells that produce reproductive cells, eggs, or sperm, in the body.
Modification of a germ cell can cause all the organism’s cells to contain the modified gene. Gene transfer is representing a new possibility for the treatment of rare genetic disorders by changing the expression of a person’s genes. Gene transfer involves the use of a vector such as a virus to deliver a therapeutic gene to the suitable target cells. So, Here is some general overview of queries about germline gene therapy:
Do the benefits of germline gene therapy outweigh the potential risks?
Yes, It does, to some extent. It enables the correction of disease-causing mutations that are certain to be passed on from generation to generation, sparing future generations from suffering from the disease. It enables the generation being treated to lead a healthy life. But the effects of gene therapy are too unpredictable. Even if the therapy successfully cures the disease, other mutations can potentially be introduced. Because germline gene therapy targets the reproductive cells, any additional mutations that are introduced as a result will be passed on to the next generation.
Is germline gene therapy affordable?
Germline gene therapy has the potential to remove a disease completely from the population. It will reduce/remove the long term healthcare costs of treating the disease. This is likely to justify it being available through the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. In areas of the world without a free health service, only parents who can afford suitable health insurance will be able to undergo germline gene therapy. Poorer parents will not have access to gene therapy.
Is germline gene therapy ethically acceptable?
Theoretically, germline gene therapy could be used to select for particular physical characteristics regardless of whether they are important for the health of the individual. The widespread use of germline gene therapy may make society less accepting of people who are different or who have a particular disability or genetic condition. In the UK and United States, it is being used, but the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC) was set up in the UK to regulate the use of gene therapy. All requests to carry out any gene therapy on humans must be approved by GTAC’s Research Ethics Committee (REC) before it can go ahead. The US National Human Genome Research Institute also aims to identify all ethical and legal issues associated with emerging genetic research.
Is Germline gene therapy considered an individual’s human rights?
It does. As no unborn child, whether conceived naturally or artificially through IVF and germline gene therapy, is able to choose their genetics and whether they are born with or without a particular condition.