Location: Outside U.S.
Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Date: Spring 2011
If you want to replace defective gene in fetus haw do
you do it without demaging a fetus? Do you use a micro needle or
Although still in the research stage, in utero gene therapy offers
much promise in the fight against heritable diseases such as cystic
fibrosis and hemophilia. Fetal therapy has one major advantage over
later interventions: it avoids the possibility that the immune system
will view the introduced corrective DNA (and/or DNA vector such as an
attenuated virus) as invasive and mount a defense. So in theory we can
sneak in subtle genetic rewrites of defective genes without having to
worry that the immune system will mobilize its troops!
To minimize trauma to the developing fetus, genes can be injected into
the amniotic cavity (through ultrasound guidance) or into fetal
circulation (umbilical vein) using needle embryofetoscopy. This
procedure is scope assisted.
It should be noted that all attempts at gene therapy aim to correct
somatic cell DNA, as opposed to germ cell DNA. There is a great deal
of ethical resistance to germline modifications, particularly since
any changes can be passed to future offspring. For couples at risk for
mendelian (genetic) diseases, gene therapy does seem to be a more
palatable ethical alternative to 1) abortion and 2) preimplantation
selection, where “test tube” embryos are screened and selectively
discarded if positive for a given disease.
Dr. Tim Durham
Instructor, Office of Curriculum and Instruction
Department of Biological Sciences
Florida Gulf Coast University
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Update: June 2012