Happy to Be a GMO

We’ve posted about GMO foods on this site, but some of the most interesting genetic engineering is happening in medicine. I’ve just found this story from last fall:

Gene silencing: The first Huntington’s Disease patients have been successfully dosed with gene silencing drugs targeting the HD gene. These brave volunteers are the first HD patients to ever be treated with drugs designed to attack HD at its root cause. hdbuzz

Scientists are changing genes – or, at least, gene expression – inside living human beings.

Huntington’s is caused by a mutated version of a gene that was inherited. You, I and everyone has two copies of the HD gene, one from mom and one from dad. If one of these copies has a repetitive bit of code near one it changes the way this gene does its job. Science doesn’t yet understand the details, but this fairly simple variation causes a horrible disease.

‘Gene silencing’ drugs, also known as ‘antisense’ drugs, are designed to reduce production of a chosen protein by attaching to the mRNA ‘message molecule’ that’s made whenever a gene is activated. medicalxpress

There’s a drug, pumped directly into the brain’s fluids, that targets the mutant gene and curtails production of a damaging protein. After trials on mice the technique has been used on human volunteers with early symptoms in a test of safety. There have been no complications over several months, but subjects will be evaluated in 2016. If the drug is deemed safe, trials of its effectiveness will proceed. A terrible disease could be cured.

You may ask,
What’s this got to do with Golden Rice or Arctic Apples?

It reinforces my opinion that knee-jerk reactions make no sense on either side. I doubt the Frankenfolk rendered disease free (if the drug pans out) will mind becoming GMOs.

Techniques vary, risks-to-benefits must be evaluated, and you may feel differently about genetic changes that effect only one organism or can be passed on to offspring. But GMOs are a growing part of our lives and seem to be responsibly researched. I wish the Huntington’s researchers luck and am still looking forward to my first Arctic Apple.


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