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Is it true that scientists have finally found a safe and effective treatment for brain tumors without the negative side effects that radiation and chemotherapy has?

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Introduction

TECHNOLOGY REVIEW Volume 1 Issue 10 March 2001 Gene Therapy for Brain Tumors Is it true that scientists have finally found a safe and effective treatment for brain tumors without the negative side effects that radiation and chemotherapy has? A fairly recent method has emerged for the treatment of brain tumors-gene therapy. Gene therapy, when perfected, will give people new genes that will stop a disease or fix an abnormality. Brain Tumor- Courtesy of The Whole Brain Atlas Different type of scan--Courtesy of The Whole Brain Atlas It sounds idealistic to insert a desired gene into a human; however, it's easier said than done. Scientists currently are using vectors to deliver genes and there seems to be some progress with this tactic. Vectors are circular self-replicating DNA (such as a plasmid, which are DNA molecules or a virus, a nonliving agent) in which additional genes are introduced in a test tube or container (Nester 816). Using these as vectors is a good choice because a plasmid is the part of the DNA that can be transferred to another cell and the function of a virus is to insert its genes into another host cell. The new genes for the patient are then attached to the vector and are ready for delivery; the new genes are carried into the host cell with the vector and are replicated within the vector (Nester 816). ...read more.

Middle

A retrovirus is very dangerous as displayed in the case of HIV, but in the case of gene therapy the new genes are ones that will benefit the host, not harm the host. Retrovirus An adenovirus contains DNA that's shaped like a 20-sided polyhedron that may cause a respiratory disease, but again, scientists have found a way to change this virus to benefit the host (Webster). Adenovirus- Courtesy of Dr. Stephen Fuller A HSV recombinant refers to a term that involves the herpes virus and cut up DNA molecules that are spliced to form specific DNA fragments (Webster). Herpes Virus-Courtesy of Dr. Linda M. Stannard The other type of vector, AAV stands for adeno-associated virus-a defective small single-stranded DNA virus that includes a causative agent for an extreme type of rash (Webster). AAV is only capable of replication with the help of the adenovirus or herpes virus. You many wonder then, how exactly is the vector delivered? The vector is delivered through an injection either into the cerebrum or directly into the tumor itself (Chiocca 297). Injecting a gene through a needle may sound easy, but keep in mind of the complexities of the brain. The blood brain barrier, for example, makes it difficult to transfer a gene. ...read more.

Conclusion

Using a virus may seem ideal for delivering desired genes to the diseased cells. However, one cannot forget that it is still a virus, capable of causing fatal harm to a human if used incorrectly, and this was the unfortunate case with the teenage patient. For now, a major problem that scientists currently face is finding a prototypical animal model to test improved vectors (Chiocca 313). The current models used under study are lab rats and even though this serves as a good start, a better model that resembles the human brain is needed. Gene therapy for brain tumors is still at its beginning stages and no single vector has been perfected yet-further studies are still needed so that the method of gene transfer is efficient and safe. Through new and improved technology though, there is hope that one day gene therapy will be perfected if not become a crucial part in treating brain tumors. Chiocca says that "molecular biology is probably the right tool to address the basic questions and solve the classic problems of brain cancer, a disease of the genes" (223). This is a very new and exciting field indeed, and we shall wait to see where gene therapy will lead us. Article written by: Shirley Tran For more information about Gene Therapy, please visit the websites listed. ...read more.

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