Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Gene Editing

Besides, ethical concerns of whether it would be permissible to use this technology to enhance normal human traits (such as height or intelligence), there is the perennial question of longevity.

by Victor Cherubim-
( May 12, 2018, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Heart disease, alzheimer’s, cancer are the most common illnesses that can be eradicated in 20 years, according to Genetic research.
Genome editing or Engineering (also called gene editing) is revolutionising biomedical research due to its high efficiency, ease of use and relatively low cost. It has come after decades of scientific research and ethical and environmental concerns about its efficacy.
This consists of a group of technologies that give scientists, called geneticists, the ability to change an organism’s DNA. These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed or altered at particular locations in the genome.
A recent platform is known as CRISPR -Cas9, which is short for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” has generated a lot of excitement among geneticists and scientists because it is faster, cheaper, more accurate, and efficient than other existing genome editing methods.

Gene Therapies

There are two different categories of gene therapies, “Germline” therapy and “Somatic” therapy. Germline therapy can alter many cell types. But by definition, they also change genes in reproductive cells (like sperm and eggs). Germline therapy could “potentially” prevent inheritance of diseases. Somatic therapies on the other hand target non reproductive cells. These changes only affect the person (the individual) who receives the gene therapy. This therapy could be used to slow or reverse the disease process.

What then, are genes?

“Genes are the biological templates the body uses to make the structural proteins and enzymes needed to build and maintain tissues and organs. They are made up of strands of the genetic code, denoted by the letters G,C,T and A”. The letters of the Genetic Code refer to the molecules Guanine (G) Cytosine (C) Thymine (T) and Adenine (A). In DNA, these molecules pair up: G with C and T with A”.
Many diseases from cancer to asthma have genetic bases. Through the application of genome editing technologies, physicians “might” eventually be able to prescribe targeted gene therapy to make corrections to patient genomes and “prevent,” stop or reverse disease.

Gene tools

Gene editing “rewrites DNA, the biological code that makes up the instruction manuals of living organisms”.
Laymen should come to know the vocabulary used by Geneticists. Words such as “gene knockout,” “mutagenesis,” “activation/ repression,” are some among others regularly used.
In simple language, with gene editing, researchers can switch off and on, disable, turn on target genes, correct harmful mutations and change the activity of specific genes in plants and animals, now in humans.
What will our Genome tell us?
The DNA can tell us our sex, hair colour, eye colour, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Body Clock, Long Life, Obesity and other diseases.
The simplest thing DNA can tell us is whether someone is male or female. All you need to know is whether they have X and Y chromosomes (making them male) or a pair of Xs (which makes them female).
We are also told if you have TP3 you have a 90% chance of having cancer. In Breast Cancer, up to 80% of women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 Genes will develop Breast cancer.

The speed of DNA Sequence

The speed of DNA sequencing is increasing. We are now able to read and edit DNA to ascertain whether people are predisposed to certain diseases. Reading DNA letter by letter is called sequencing.
Soon, in fact in the not too distant future, every new born will have a DNA Sequence Report, similar to having a Passport, as an Identity Health Check. Don’t imagine it, it is already here. It is a technological platform to understand our genes, for health care, for prevention of disease and for treatment.

Epigenetic Information

Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in the gene function. Most often it denotes changes in a chromosome that affect gene activity and expression.
Epigenetic markers are passed on after birth. Epigenetic silencing is the process of making the markers reversible. There are drugs prescribed to silence the “abberated epigenetic markers”. It is to control trans-generational influences. Which marker(s) to turn on and which ones to turn off, which gene to go back to the job of protecting and restoring disease, is the science which holds great promise for the future.
The question is the positive or negative impact our genes have over long term health as well as our longevity.

DNA Screen

Every newborn will have a DNA screening. At birth you order your DNA Chart. It is your NHGRI identity. It stands for National Human Genome Research Institute, located at Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Besides, your national passport, one may also have to carry a NHGRI identity to travel the world in the future?
Who knows whether Prince Louis, newborn son of Prince William, has a NHGRI identity?
My identity, however, is that I was born in Colombo, Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. I had never known until recently that I had inherited the genes of my great, great, great, great grandfather, Changarapillai Mudaliyar who was born in 1695 and lived to a ripe old age of 89 years.
Personalised Medicine in the future?
Besides, cell free circulating DNA is being explored as a biomarker for treatment of cancer, to monitor their progression (as an alternative to invasive biopsies).
Pharmaco Genomics involves using an individual’s genome to determine whether or not a particular therapy or dose of therapy will be effective. PG information is available in the medicine label in diverse fields such as analgesics, anti-virus, cardiovascular drugs and anti-cancer therapeutics.
DNA Sequencing is being used to investigate infectious disease outbreaks, Ebola virus, drug resistance staphylococci aureas and Klebsieila pneumoniae, as well as food poisoning.

Genome Testing

Genetic Testing has exploded. But there is a tremendous shortage of Genetic Sequencers to perform these tests. There are fewer than 5000 Counsellors in the U.S,which falls short of demand for sequencing of the human genome.
Harvard’s Geneticist, Robert Green is of the view that medicines are not needed to live long. All we have to do is to thing long term. He seems to think that pain killing drugs will soon be replaced with non opioid (narcotic analgesics) as there is concern about opiod abuse and addiction.
The change to the process of using genome as a diagnostic is unstoppable.
Ethical and environmental concerns
Besides, ethical concerns of whether it would be permissible to use this technology to enhance normal human traits (such as height or intelligence), there is the perennial question of longevity.
As I researched this piece, partly in competition with my nephew in the States, who happens to be Geneticist, I also spoke to some other experts who foresee a coming “Uranus” revolution on 15 May 2018,in medicine among other technologies, where we treat age, instead of disease.
To do this, they are trying to figure out how aging works at the molecular level. We know the scientific platform is changing from disease related to age related.
Life expectancy already varies greatly. It is tied to education, wealth, where you live, what you eat and how much alcohol you consume. Life extending therapies could exacerbate these expectancies. This means people with money and resources will have the choice to live longer.
That cannot be right, can it?