Research

Changing the DNA You Were Born With

Photo by Jorge Lucero on Flickr
We’ve all heard this before – you can’t change the genes you were born with…or can you? Impossible as it may sound many researchers have been trying to do just that. The field is called gene therapy and it involves “correcting” your existing genes to prevent or treat illness. Think of it as cutting-and-pasting new instructions into your body’s existing user manual. 

So, how do researchers go about altering what your parents gave you?  They first have to determine which gene(s) need to be changed.  One ambitious attempt currently involves lessening the effects of infections such as HIV. In this case, the virus enters some of your healthy blood cells through specific receptors.  These receptors are essentially designated guest entrances, just for the HIV virus. The obvious solution?  Get rid of these entryways so the virus can’t get into your healthy cells. 

Again, the key is to remove the cell’s instructions on how to make these entryways.  In clinical trials, scientists are using DNA-cutting scissors, to delete these instructions.  No more instructions, no more entryway for HIV viruses. If the virus can’t get in, your cells can’t get sick. Once perfected, this technique could be used not only to prevent illness, but help sick people recover.

About the author

Melissa Carmen Cheung, PhD

Passionate about sharing science with the public in a fun and accessible way, Melissa is a Medical Communications professional who earned her Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Toronto. Though her research focused on the design of novel cancer therapeutics, Melissa is intrigued by all facets of science. Her goal in life is to captivate people with the same excitement she feels for science.

  • Anonymous

    改变遗传下来的DNA

    translated by carolynmou

    我们以前都听说过,与生俱来的DNA是没法改变的,是吧?很多研究者做过此类尝试。此领域称作基因治疗,也就是通过改变你的基因来防治疾病。想像一下,这就像剪切和粘贴新的指令并发送到你身体现有的用户手册里。

    那么,研究者如何改变我们受身于父母的基因呢?首先,他们要确定哪些基因需要改变。目前最有潜力的尝试是关于减少HIV感染的研究。HIV病毒通过特定的受体进入人体正常细胞,这些受体对HIV病毒来说是量身定做的必须通道。最有效的解决方案是把这些通道清理掉,这样的话,病毒就没法侵入人体细胞了。

    也就是说,此技术的关键就在于去除细胞里生产受体的指令。在临床实验中,科学家们利用DNA剪刀去除这些指令。没有指令,就没有HIV受体通道。如果病毒无法进入人体,你就不会生病。这项技术一旦成熟,不但能预防疾病,还能治疗疾病,使病人康复。

    http://article.yeeyan.org/view/345265/315018