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Jim Plante and the Promise of Genetic Therapy for Preventing Disease

Business owners like Jim Plante focus on preventing, treating and curing serious diseases that have a genetic component. Mr. Plante, his team at Pathway Genomics, and other researchers in the field of medical genetics hope that one day most attention by physicians to patients will be in the realm of preventive medicine. They hope that gene therapy will be responsible for this vast improvement in healthcare. They would like to see this day arrive not too far in the future.

Revolutionary Possibilities

Developments in genetic research are viewed as revolutionizing the world of medicine. Men and women are better able to make important decisions about their future when they learn their level of risk for a disease that runs in their family. They may be able to implement strategies for prevention that would not be essential otherwise. A person at an increased risk of congestive heart failure, for instance, might boost his or her exercise frequency to at least 30 minutes five days per week. In some cases, people can take extraordinary steps for prevention, such as having surgery to remove a body part at high risk of developing malignant, life-threatening tumors.

Complexities

The human genome is incredibly complex, explaining why efforts in this area of research can take a very long time to generate positive results. In school, kids learn in science class that each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, but they may not learn much more than this. The genome actually contains about 3 billion base pairs. Some chromosomes contain hundreds of genes while others contain thousands.

The prospect of gene editing to prevent disease and other chronic health problems is exciting, but researchers recognize the difficulty of editing such a complicated genetic structure. They have to be vigilant about making sure the introduction of genetic material only has positive effects.

Scientific Diligence

Some setbacks have occurred in gene therapy research over the years, but the scientists diligently continue their efforts. They look at other types of successful medical treatments that took a long time to develop but are now used routinely. Life-saving bone marrow transplantation for treating leukemia is just one example.

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