Treating genetic conditions with gene therapy is becoming a viable medical procedure.
Gene therapy is a term that encompasses a number of different techniques being used to add healthy genes to the abnormal cells of patients with genetic disorders. Currently, gene therapy is used to treat only non-reproductive cells. But it might be even easier to genetically manipulate sperm and egg cells or very early embryos.
This type of therapy, called germ-line gene therapy, could theoretically be used to eliminate inherited diseases such as Tay-Sachs disease, sickle-cell anemia, or cystic fibrosis. Unlike conventional gene therapy, which affects only the treated patient, germ-line gene therapy would affect future generations because it changes the genetic code passed from parents to their children.
In theory, germ-line gene therapy-or genetic engineering-could also be used by couples to genetically enhance their offspring, choosing that their children have certain desired characteristics such as intelligence, athletic prowess, musical ability, or physical beauty.
Although scientists have yet to isolate specific genes or groups of genes
for these characteristics, they may in the future. This would open the possibility
of creating smarter, healthier, and more capable human beings, like the
provocative scenario presented by Aldous Huxley in his novel Brave New World.
Visitors Responding: 1179
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1. Should doctors use germ-line gene therapy to correct genetic diseases?
Yes: 68% No: 21% Unsure/no response: 11%
2. Should germ-line gene therapy be restricted to curing genetic diseases?
Restrict: 36% No restrictions: 6% Unsure/no response: 58%
3. Should parents be able to genetically enhance their children?
Yes: 12% No: 34% Unsure/no response: 54%