Genes and Health

January 21, 2011 • Volume 21, Issue 3
Is gene therapy for disease on the horizon?
By Marcia Clemmitt


A technician tests DNA samples (Bloomberg via Getty Images/Sandy Huffaker)
A technician tests DNA samples at Pathway Genomics, a San Diego maker of direct-to-consumer genetics test kits. Plans to sell the kits at Walgreens drug stores stalled after the Food and Drug Administration questioned their reliability. (Bloomberg via Getty Images/Sandy Huffaker)

Ever since scientists began to decipher the human genome in the 1990s, hopes have run high that unraveling the genetic code would rapidly revolutionize health care. But while gene research has changed scientists' understanding of many diseases, practical applications remain few. Genetic tests for single-gene diseases such as cystic fibrosis are available, and doctors can more precisely pinpoint the kind of cancer a patient has by analyzing genes. Gene tests can also predict how patients will respond to some drugs. However, no actual gene therapy has been approved for human use, and researchers now know that diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer's and adult-onset diabetes usually result from a complex interaction among numerous genes and a person's environment. These findings cast doubt on whether current genetic tests for such prevalent diseases are accurate and whether gene science makes it any easier to find treatments.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Genetics and Cloning
Jun. 14, 2019  Consumer Genetic Testing
Apr. 26, 2019  Manipulating Human Genes
Sep. 15, 2017  Medical Breakthroughs
Jun. 19, 2015  Manipulating the Human Genome
May 31, 2013  Patenting Human Genes
Jan. 21, 2011  Genes and Health
May 15, 2009  Reproductive Ethics
Oct. 22, 2004  Cloning Debate
May 18, 2001  Designer Humans
May 12, 2000  Human Genome Research
Dec. 17, 1999  Embryo Research
May 28, 1999  DNA Databases
Apr. 03, 1998  Biology and Behavior
May 09, 1997  The Cloning Controversy
Dec. 08, 1995  Gene Therapy's Future
Apr. 08, 1994  Reproductive Ethics
Oct. 18, 1991  Gene Therapy
Aug. 16, 1991  Fetal Tissue Research
Jun. 30, 1989  Solving Crimes with Genetic Fingerprinting
Apr. 03, 1987  Biotechnology Developments
Jan. 10, 1986  Genetic Breakthroughs
Dec. 26, 1980  Genetic Business
Mar. 25, 1977  Genetic Research
May 19, 1971  Human Engineering
Aug. 20, 1969  Human Intelligence
Dec. 13, 1967  Genetics and the Life Process
Genetic Disorders and Medical Genetics