Brave New Worlds


Well, it has been a long time since i posted anything in this blog. Well now, here i am. I read an excerpt from this book called Brave New Worlds, written by Bryan Appleyard. Here it is:-

Finally, knowledge of gene regulation may also lead to a breakthrough in the treatment of cancer – the disease which kills one in three of us. All cancer is genetic because it involves an alteration in a cell’s DNA. Some types are also genetic in the sense that they are hereditary, but the remainder seem to be the result of mutations due to environmental factors or the action of viruses which replicate by changing the DNA of the host cells. If we can regulate genes with sufficient accuracy, we can, in theory at least, turn off cancer-causing genes or otherwise change the genetics of cancer cells to eliminate tumours.

Already we have isolated a number of genetic factors involved in cancers. The first breakthrough came as long ago as the 1960s when the American scientist Peyton Rous discovered a gene – christened ‘sarc’ – that caused cancer in chickens. Since then, there have been steady though not spectacular developments. Colon cancer and breast cancer, the most common form of the disease in women, have been traced to certain genes, called oncogenes. There will be huge increase in the number of cancer-causing genes we are able to identify.

Genetic advances have already transformed the way cancer is regarded. Traditionally cancers have categorized on the basis of the part of the body in which they occu – colon cancer, lung cancer, and so on. It is now becoming clear that it is more accurate to categorize cancers on the basis of the chemical pathways involved. So a cancer of the throat may, biochemically, have more in common with a cancer of the bowel than it does with another throat cancer. As the geneticist Eric Lander said: ‘We will classify the tumour according to the pathway, not the site in the body.’

One form of specific human cloning is currently being used as a treatment for cancer. This involves the production of so-called monoclonal antibodies. White blood cells are removed from a patient and exposed to cancer cells in the hope that they will produce the correct antibodies to destroy the cancer. Only about one in 100, 000 white cells will react in this way. But this is enough if they can then be cloned and injected back into the patient to seek out and destroy tumours. This technique has long been promising, but results are so far inconclusive.

These are simply examples of the use of genetics against cancer. The field of cancer research is so vast that there are many others. Current cancer treatment is still largely based on the conventional methods of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. In spite of all the effort in the past half-century, cancer treatment has only been refined, not revolutionized. While would-be revolutionaries now look to genetics, in view of the history, it would be safest to say only that some kind of breakthrough may happen in the next ten years.

It was certainly enlightened to read this book. It talks about eugenics and cloning in the not too distant future.

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