Gene Therapy in Popular Culture
Evidently, toying with our genes does not hold a place of very high esteem in our popular culture. From 1997’s Gattaca to 2007’s I Am Legend and 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, gene therapy is depicted as an unnatural and undesirable practice leading to consequences ranging from the degeneration of the human soul to complete global apocalypse. These characterizations are inevitably seen and absorbed by many more average citizens than, say, the 2002 PBS special on decoding the human genome, Cracking the Code of Life.
But how much of this portrayal is deserved, and how much is fabricated by the insecurities of society and the natural aversion to anything deemed ‘unnatural?’ The reality of the matter is: at this point, no serious scientists is hoping to use gene therapy to alter human beings to a point of unrecognizability. There are plenty of genetic diseases which can theoretically be prevented or cured through gene therapy research. Medical treatment constantly develops in response to the innovations in science and technology. Moreover, the discovery of the causes of diseases indicates the need for solutions in the field of medicine. In case of hereditary diseases, the illness is passed down from parent(s) to the child. The cause of this transfer is usually a defect or a mutation in the parent’s gene. This fact opens the realm for genetic intervention and research.
Gene therapy is necessary because the benefits of implementing it to treat genetic diseases outweigh any possible overdramatized risk. Moreover, the risks are constantly evaluated by the concerned authorities to guarantee the safety and effectiveness of the procedure. People who have genetic disorders are given new hope. The scientific community also benefits from the therapy since the applicability and effectiveness of the treatment are confirmed while pitfalls are detected early on.