The Race for a Cure


Genetic engineering (GE) is providing the medical community with the most powerful tools in history to diagnose and understand disease, to develop drugs to treat disease, and ultimately to prevent disease.

Scientists are just beginning to test the huge powers of our tiny genes. The enormous task of mapping the human genome was accomplished in the year 2000. That work established the sequence of the human genes, but much more work remains to unlock the functions of those genes and to understand the various ways they work together (proteomics).

Exciting breakthroughs are happening every day in research labs around the world thanks to GE. Treatments and cures are on the horizon for devastating diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, AIDS, sickle-cell anemia, Parkinson's, and cystic fibrosis. But with these promising possibilities come an awesome burden of ethical responsibility. These GE technologies could be used in ways that many believe are unethical or immoral. For instance, there are serious objections to using GE to enhance humans by making them smarter or taller or stronger, or to using biotechnology to clone human beings. (See ethics.) Tight controls and regulations are in place to oversee the many different research efforts in the medical field.

Explore More: Genetic Engineering
Copyright 2004, Iowa Public Television
The Explore More project is supported by funds from the
Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust
and the USDE Star Schools Program.



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Two deadly viruses, the ones that cause Ebola and AIDS, could actually help cure a devastating and deadly genetic disease. More

First Failure
Gene therapy is a promising path that researchers are following to find cures and treatments for deadly genetic diseases. More

Success Story
The first disease successfully treated by gene therapy was Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID). More

PBS Newshour Online Links

Search for genes causing disease

Gene therapy discussion

The list of genetic research