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Scientists are finally decoding the building blocks of gene therapy

| Updated on March 10, 2018

The genes in your body’s cells play an important role in your health — indeed, a defective gene or genes can make you sick. Recognising this, scientists have been working for decades on ways to modify genes or replace faulty genes with healthy ones to treat, cure or prevent a disease or medical condition.

Now this research on gene therapy is finally paying off. Since August 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved three gene therapy products, the first of their kind. Two of them reprogram a patient’s own cells to attack a deadly cancer, and the most recent approved product targets a disease caused by mutations in a specific gene.

What is the relationship between cells and genes? Cells are the basic building blocks of all living things; the human body is composed of trillions of them. Within our cells there are thousands of genes that provide the information for the production of specific proteins and enzymes that make muscles, bones, and blood, which in turn support most of our body’s functions, such as digestion, making energy, and growing.

Sometimes the whole or part of a gene is defective or missing from birth, or a gene can change or mutate during adult life. Any of these variations can disrupt how proteins are made, which can contribute to health problems or diseases. In gene therapy, scientists can do one of several things depending on the problem that is present. They can replace a gene that causes a medical problem with one that doesn’t, add genes to help the body to fight or treat disease, or turn off genes that are causing problems.

(Source: USFDA)

Published on December 29, 2017

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