Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Our future genes - genetic research

Q: What's so important about genetics?

Spelsberg: Genes control all the physical traits you inherit. They instruct your cells to make proteins that determine everything from the color of your eyes to whether you'll be at risk for--or get--certain diseases.

Today scientists are unlocking the blueprint of genes at their most basic level. The Human Genome Project involves researchers around the world. They hope to identify and interpret (decode) the roughly 100,000 genes that tell the story of human heredity. By locating and adjusting genetic material, they may possibly prevent or alter the course of certain diseases.

Q: What are some potential uses for genetic engineering?

Spelsberg: Scientists hope to insert material to erase or replace "bad" genes, such as those that lead to colon cancer. Or doctors might enhance the capabilities, maybe even the number, of "good" genes. Good genes might strengthen your immune system or keep your blood vessels from clogging.

If you have diabetes, for example, new genetic material might encourage production of insulin. If you have a kidney transplant, genetic material could halt the organ rejection process.

Genetic engineering may make you more receptive to chemotherapy or better able to resist hepatitis or the AIDS virus.

Genetic engineering may enable scientists to correct genetic defects, thereby preventing ailments from being passed on to one's descendants.


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