More precise and safe gene therapy is highly promising

A way to carry out genetic surgery [more precise gene therapy] has been devised by a British Nobel prizewinner that is already under test on diabetic patients and being readied for use to treat Aids, blocked blood vessels and chronic pain. Safety and precision problems and concerns have been holding back wider use of gene therapy. If gene therapy were completely safe and precise, then many like gene therapy pioneer H. Lee Sweeney would switch to recommending treatments like myostatin inhibitors for increasing muscle mass by up to 4 times because they would make people healthier.

Sir Aaron Klug, a Nobel laureate working at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, has developed a more efficient way to target genes, so gene therapy can be done with surgical precision. They have modified a piece of natural cellular machinery called “zinc fingers”.

They have devised synthetic versions, called zinc-fingered nucleases, which have the capacity to recognise specific sequences of DNA which makes them extremely good at latching on to a specific spot, targeting particular genes without affecting others, so they can carry out genetic surgery to knock out genes or introduce new ones.

The new method is already being tested on more than 100 young diabetic patients who have lost sensation, a common complication, by the Californian company Sangamo BioSciences, after encouraging results in preliminary tests of the method to introduce a gene encoding a growth factor that can help restore sensation.

Sir Aaron explains: “The beauty of zinc-finger nucleases lies in their simplicity. Where other methods are long, arduous and often messy, it is relatively easy to switch off genes using this method.

“The zinc-finger design allows us to target a single gene, while the nuclease disrupts the gene. The single step process is extremely quick and reliable and opens up exciting possibilities for research and gene therapy.”

BBC news also has coverage

Animal trials are already under way to use the technique to knock out the receptor of HIV in immune system T-cells of patients with Aids.

If successful this will render the T-cells immune from HIV infection, and enable them to fight disease.

Clinical trials to aid patients with blocked blood vessels are also under way.

0 thoughts on “More precise and safe gene therapy is highly promising”

  1. On radioactive material, please look at my past articles on nuclear power and reprocessing of the unburned fuel. 8% of the worlds nuclear material is reprocessed in France, UK, Japan, Russia etc…

    Alberta does not want to scale back. the federal government does not want to scale back. As a Canadian if you cared about making the world a better place then you would not want to scale back either. By being able to feed US demand for oil from the oilsands you can help make the world a more peaceful place.

    As for the strip mining, being able to completely replace oil and coal would make the environment better. The fastest way to do that is to build nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and anything not coal or oil.

    Compare the strip mining to mountain top removal to get at coal.

  2. Nuclear power does not address the adverse environmental effects caused by extracting oil from bitumen through strip mining, and then you have to find a place to put all of that radioactive material.

    It might be the only option though, since the United States has a gun to our heads, ready to fire if we even think about scaling back oil production in Alberta. They invaded Iraq for exporting oil in Euros, for chrissakes, imagine what they would do if we cut them off from this strategic resource!

  3. Dezakin, I think your point about thermal energy is well taken, which is probably why Henuset estimates 500,000 bpd from the 2.2GW twin reactor. He is probably right since he has probably spent millions on his plan and hundreds of times the amount of effort we have looking at it.

    Al Fin: Yes, I think it is very ironic. It will upset environmentalists who are unwilling to accept inconvenient truths. The inconvenient truth that using nuclear to get out oil from oilsands is cleaner than burning natural gas. Plus natural gas is more easily shipped out and used to displace coal.

  4. One needs to remember that nuclear reactors pump about 3 times the thermal energy of their electric rating, and for mobilizing the tar sands thermal energy is all you need.


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