All of a human being’s physical traits and a lot of his emotional characteristics are the result of inherited genes. Genes that a person is born with make him vulnerable to certain diseases.
In other cases, the person might be an unknowing carrier of genes susceptible to disease which will not manifest itself in him. But the latent defective gene will descend down generations and inexorably manifest itself at some point of time in his descendants.
Genetic engineering is the technology used to alter the genetic makeup of cells and transfer the genes from one to another species with the intent of producing new organisms. The technology is the highly complex alteration of genetic material and other important biological chemicals.
Progress in genetic engineering has opened up a better understanding of DNA and its role in multifarious fields such as reproductive technology, pharmacology and medicine, amongst others.
Gene therapy is one of the most significant benefits of genetic engineering in humans. This is the study of medicine applied to disease, specifically the repair and replacement of defective genes or the introduction of therapeutic genes that are able to fight disease. In the past decade many heart and autoimmune diseases have been treated with the knowledge gained by gene therapy. It is hoped that certain genetic diseases -- there are over 4,000 such known -- will in time be prevented or eradicated with genetic engineering. This will be achieved either by replacing or correcting the defective gene. Gene therapy will also be applied to the treatment of non-genetic diseases.
Genetic engineering has resulted in superior and more sophisticated pharmaceutical products by cloning certain genes. Bio-engineered insulin and the human growth hormones are two such examples which are now produced synthetically. Earlier manufacture relied on animals and cadavers.
Genetic engineering permits the screening of fetuses for genetic defects. It is expected that very soon a fetus with a genetic effect will be treated by genetic therapy.
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