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Gene Therapy and its Potential to Cure Deafness

Losing a vital sense makes living life more difficult. Gene therapy, the process of replacing faulty genes with genes genetically engineered to replace them, can potentially cure deafness. Yashimo Raphael experimented with intentionally deafened guinea pigs and the gene Atoh 1, a gene said to replace lost hair cells in the inner ear. He found that hair cells grew, but were not fully functional. The slight aid in hearing the gene did give the guinea pigs almost completely disappeared after a few weeks time. Although the new hair cells did not function properly, the fact that they grew defied nature and was a successful start.Deafness affects millions of people in the United States every year. Cochlear implants and hearing aids are two methods to treat the hearing impaired, but the person has to rely on the device to hear sounds. First announced in Nature Medicine, scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School have discovered a gene that could potentially cure deafness.Gene therapy, a relatively new innovention, is becoming popular across the country. Gene therapy modifies a part of an organism, whereas cloning creates an entirely recreated organism. This technique can be conducted in vivo in either somatic or germ cells. The process is essentially aimed at fixing a genetic disorder or disease by inserting a functional gene to replace the faulty one (Houdebine 2003). Many methods to conduct a gene transfer have been tested. The two types are in vivo and in vitro. Transferring genes in vivo means placing the functional genes directly into the target tissue; while vitro transfers creates the genes outside of the body, in Petri dishes. Vitro is an expensive process that r…

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…to create a genetically perfect person is a controversial issue in the world genetically engineering. While Atoh 1 cannot currently cure hearing it can re-grow precious hair cells, making it valuable in the slow steps of finding an eventual cure.ReferencesCoghlan, A (2005, February) Gene Therapy is first deafness ‘cure.’ New Scientist. 7/25/05: www.newscientist.comHoubebine, Louis-Marie. (2003). Animal transgenesis and Cloning. Chichester:The AtriumMaugh, T. (2005, February) Gene therapy fixes animal hearing. Los Angeles Times. www.detnews.comPau, H., r.w. Clarke. (2004). Advances in the genetic manipulations in the treatment of hearing disorders. Clinical Otolaryngology (29), Page 574Pobojewski, S. (2005, February). U-M scientists use gene therapy to grow new hair cells and restore hearing in adult guinea pigs. University of Michigan Health Systems.

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