The ultimate goal of genetic research is to apply the findings to the advantage of human beings. In the near future, gene editing is expected to be introduced to the treatment of human diseases.

Curing Hemophilia

Genetic scientists have studied patients with severe hemophilia A and found inversions in their blood-clotting genes.

A team of Korean researchers is trying to treat the disease by using genetic scissors to cut the inverted gene and readjust the gene to its proper position. The research is still in its infancy, but it brings us great hope to find a cure for hemophilia.

Treating Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is an age-related disease that causes blurred or reduced central vision.

The macula is at the back of the eye and has photoreceptor cells that send signals to the brain, which are perceived as images. Macular degeneration occurs when abnormal development of blood vessels in the macula and results in distorted or blurred vision.

A  team of Korean researchers succeeded in curing a mouse with macular degeneration by using genetic scissors. They identified the gene factor that promotes the development of blood vessels in the macula and cut it off with genetic scissors. The team reported that this gene editing technique enabled the mouse to restore its vision quickly.

The advantage of gene therapy is that the curative effect is permanent as the gene that develops the risk factor for a disease is removed for good. Gene therapy using genetic scissors will significantly change human history once it is developed to be part of general medical procedures.

Today, there are lots of restrictions and criticisms against gene therapy. Some say that the technique could harm the dignity of human life.

If parents can edit the genes of their offspring before they are born, everyone would want to have babies with superior genes, just as depicted in the film Gattaca. This trend could lead to a birth of a society where only the chosen minority cherishes the power of superior genes.

The ethical implications of gene therapy should be taken into serious consideration.

Scientists say that sooner or later, gene therapy will be embraced by the public. Take in-vitro fertilization, which faced intense criticism in its early days. Today it is the technology of hope for infertile couples.

Will genetic scissors become the next breakthrough technology that saves humanity? Or will it become a threat to us and the entire ecosystem?

The answer lies in our hands.


Sources:
EBS 과학 다큐 ‘비욘드’의 ‘유전자 가위, 신의 도구인가’ 편

References:
유전자가 계급을 정하는 사회 '가타카'