The human body is made up thousands of cells, within which are 23 pairs of chromosomes which themselves are made up of thousands of genes. Our cells form the biological structure of our body – every tissue, organ and system in our body is a formation of these cells.
Our genes provide every single instruction to our cells as to what purpose they should perform – every single physical and functional detail of our body is determined by the instructions our genes give out. Due to this fact, if one single gene or cell becomes damaged, mutates or is simply missing from our genetic make-up then this has serious consequences for our body and our health.
Malfunctioning gene or cell
Missing, faulty or damaged genes result in often serious genetic disorders that can be life-threatening and that will most likely have serious ramifications for the carrier. Likewise, damaged or destroyed cells result in serious diseases that can dramatically reduce the quality of a person’s life. These sorts of medical illnesses cannot be cured by traditional methods in medicine such as drug therapy – although drug therapy can often ease the symptoms of such an illness, there is no drug therapy that can reverse or repair the effects of a malfunctioning gene or cell.
When scientific research proved that such disorders were the result of gene or cell damage, scientists could start to look at the possibilities of reversing this damage as a means of finding a cure. Out of this came the birth of gene therapy and stem cell therapy. Both types of therapy are still very much in the research stages but there have already been a number of breakthroughs and these types of treatment are already being used to treat some illnesses to varying degrees of success. However these therapies have a long way to go before their full potential can be realised.
The importance of gene therapy
Nevertheless, based on the research already carried out, scientists believe that these therapies could be the answer to a cure for some truly horrendous incurable diseases. For instance: cancer; brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; genetic disorders such as Cystic Fibrosis; heart disease and diabetes to name but a few. Gene therapy and stem cell therapy provide the medical world with its most significant hope to date in curing these tragic diseases.
Gene therapy and stem cell therapy share one fundamental similarity in that they both aim to provide a cure for currently incurable diseases; nevertheless the therapies are different. Gene therapy focuses on manipulating or replacing faulty genes within the body in the hope that this will repair the fault in the gene and in doing so cure or at least lessen the problem. Stem cell therapy is different in that it focuses on taking a particular type of cell – with special properties that make them changeable – from the body, changing the cell and then using the altered cells for repairing damaged tissue or growing entirely new tissue.
This site will provide you with all the information you need to know about gene therapy and stem cell therapy and about all the trials, tribulations, successes and failures scientists have already come across in their quest to find a cure. Here you will find information on: the purpose, practice and potential of gene therapy and stem cell therapy; the uses of gene therapy in treating cystic fibrosis and cancer; the pros and cons of gene therapy; stem cell treatment, research and storage as well as the phenomenon of embryonic stem cells; the ethical dilemmas involved with these therapies; and a general FAQ to answer the questions that have not been answered already.
Gene therapy and stem cell therapy are both very new and as yet poorly understood medical phenomenons, but due to very clear indications of the possibilities that these therapies open up they are phenomenons that we simply cannot ignore.