COULD SCIENCE SOLVE HEALTH PROBLEMS IN NEWBORNS?


The technique of assisted reproductive technology (ART) is used to treat infertility. It includes fertility treatments that handle both a woman's egg and a man's sperm. It works by removing eggs from a woman's body. The eggs are then mixed with sperm to make embryos. The embryos are then put back into the woman's body. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is the most common and effective type of ART.

ART procedures sometimes use donor eggs, donor sperm, or previously frozen embryos. It may also involve a surrogate or gestational carrier. A surrogate is a woman who becomes pregnant with sperm from the male partner in the couple. A gestational carrier becomes pregnant with an egg from the female partner and the sperm from the male partner.

The most common complication in ART is a multiple pregnancy. It can be prevented or minimised by limiting the number of embryos that are put into the woman's body. IVF can provide hope for patients facing many different causes of infertility. Women with damage or blockages in their fallopian tubes have very low chances of becoming pregnant without fertility treatment, but IVF can circumvent this issue. Men who have a low sperm count or issues with sperm motility may have difficulty fertilising their partner's eggs. Because the fertilisation step takes place outside the body during IVF treatment, it provides a solution that bypasses the need for the male's sperm to navigate the woman's reproductive tract.

In order to limit health problems in newborns, it looks at the achievements of the ultimate goal of gene editing technologies. The capacity to make precise, controlled modifications to very specific areas of the genome. This would be a powerful ability. Gene editing unlocks access to an entirely novel way to fight disease which has been unreachable until now. At the same time science is highly unlikely to be able to: genetically predestine a child’s Ivy League acceptance letter, front-load a kid with Stephen Colbert’s one-liners, or bake Beyonce’s vocal range into a baby. That’s because none of those talents arise from a single gene mutation, or even from an easily identifiable number of genes. Most human traits are nowhere near that simple.

But science could reach solutions for those around 7.9 million children each year who are born with a serious birth defect that has a significant genetic contribution. If we could safely and easily correct these errors at the embryonic stage it would be possible to virtually eradicate this disease burden. In addition, 30% of all deaths worldwide are due to chronic diseases (such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes) in those under 70. We all know of people who seem innately resistant to the perils of ageing and flourish well into their 80s and 90s. Gene editing could ensure we all have the best chance to live healthily into old age. In the future we may also be able to "cure" genetic diseases in embryos by replacing faulty sections of DNA with healthy DNA, in a process called germ line therapy. In the UK, the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC) was set up in 1993 to regulate the use of gene therapy. All requests to carry out any kind of gene therapy on humans must be approved by GTAC's Research Ethics Committee (REC) before it can go ahead. GTAC advises on the ethical acceptability of proposals for gene therapy research on humans. This regulation prevents gene therapy being used to select characteristics for non-medical purposes to “design” babies.

The US National Human Genome Research Institute, aims to identify all ethical and legal issues associated with emerging genetic research. It believes that consideration of the ethical arguments should accompany new genetic modification practices, rather than react to them. This will help to ensure that potentially harmful consequences are avoided altogether.

On the other hand, germline gene therapy could be used to select particular physical characteristics regardless of whether they are important for the health of the individual. On a large scale, germline gene therapy could result in the selection of characteristics to “improve” the genetics of a population. The widespread use of germline gene therapy may make society less accepting of people who are different or who have a particular disability or genetic condition.

References and Recommended Reading: https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/embryo-screening-and-the-ethics-of-human-60561

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/may/01/fear-of-designer-babies-shouldnt-distract-us-from-the-goal-of-health

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http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/10/30/designer.babies/index.html https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/science/gene-editing-embryos-designer-babies.html

#science #healthproblems #newborns #geneediting #IVF #dna #genetherapy #germlinegenetherapy

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