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A Look into Gene Therapy

Essay by   •  February 20, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,933 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,432 Views

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"If Not Influenza, Then What Is It?"

A Look Into Gene Therapy

Influenza, more commonly known as the "flu", is a virus that causes an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. Symptoms of influenza virus are due to the body naturally responding to an infection, like it would any other virus. Common symptoms that influenza can cause are fever, muscle pain, headache, nasal congestion, inflammation of the throat, and fatigue. Other viruses such as the common cold can trigger similar symptoms, although the symptoms caused by influenza tend to be more severe.

The most dangerous effect on the body caused by influenza is the reduction of the body's ability to fight off other infections, such as viral or bacterial pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs). People 65 years and older, children with under developed immune symptoms, and people with diseases in the heart or lungs are at greater risk of developing more severe symptoms during the course of influenza.

Influenza is an airborne disease, meaning that it could be spread through breathing, coughing, and/or sneezing. The virus can also be spread when a person touches tiny droplets from coughs or sneezes that are on another person or object, and they then touch their mouth or nose before washing their hands. Symptoms begin at an average of 2 days after the person is exposed to the virus. Fevers last up to 10 days, while cough and weakness can last up to 2 weeks. An infected adult can spread the virus one day before and 5 days after the symptoms start. Children, on the other hand, can spread the virus 21 days after the symptoms start.

1 The following table is a comparison of the common cold to the influenza virus that was accessed from http://www.bchealthguide.org/healthfiles/hfile12b.stm#E46E1

"Is it a cold or influenza?

The following table can help you figure out whether you are suffering from a cold or influenza.

Signs and Symptoms Common Cold Influenza (the flu)

Fever Rare Usual, sudden onset 39Ñ"-40Ñ" C, lasts 3 to 4 days

Headache Rare Usual, can be severe

Aches and Pains Sometimes mild Usual, often severe

Fatigue and weakness Sometimes mild Usual, may last 2-3 weeks or more

Extreme fatigue Unusual Usual, early onset, can be severe

Runny, stuffy nose Common Sometimes

Sneezing Common Sometimes

Sore throat Common Sometimes

Chest discomfort, coughing Sometimes mild to moderate Usual, can be severe

Complications Can lead to sinus congestion or earache Can lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure and cause more complications in persons with chronic diseases.

Prevention Frequent hand-washing Yearly influenza shot and frequent hand-washing

Treatment No specific treatment is available; symptom relief only Anti-viral drugs by prescription, which can reduce symptoms of the illness."

Viral infections such as colds and the flu, are just as common when you are pregnant as when you are not. "A baby is unlikely to suffer any ill effects" says Dr. Trisha Macnair. But that is only depending on how far into the pregnancy the expectant mother is. There are two important factors that need to be taken into consideration.

2 The first factor is that any illness which would cause the pregnant mother to be feverish and generally unwell would increase the chances of a miscarriage. This is more a problem in the early stages of pregnancy.

Second is that symptoms may not only be caused by influenza. There are possibilities that it could be another virus that could be just as harmful or more harmful to the baby.

Viral infections which cause miscarriages are particular in early pregnancy, especially within the first trimester (three months). Influenza at this general time can cause a miscarriage, though it would more likely occur from the high fever rather than the virus itself.

http://www.webmd.com/content/article/114/111316 has an article posted, then reviewed by Louise Chang, MD, that says "Catching the flu or a cold during pregnancy rarely causes birth defects. But pregnancy can increase your risk for complications from the flu such as pneumonia."

Fact from WebMD: Viral illness like the flu and colds usually last three times longer in pregnant women

Now we have heard all of the dangers of influenza, how it causes you to have terrible reactions in your body. From severe muscle pains all the way to possible miscarriages in expectant mothers. The things influenza can do is unfortunate, but no one takes into consideration the good that can be accomplished when the virus is altered for the benefit of ones body. Scientists have been using viruses to help the body replace non-functioning gene cells in the human body, this is called Gene Therapy.

3 Genes are specific sequences of bases that have encrypted instructions on how to make proteins for your functioning body. These genes, which are carried on chromosomes, are the most basic physical and functional units of inherited traits. When genes are altered so that the proteins with the instructions are unable to carry out their function, genetic disorders are usually the result.

Scientists use a technique called Gene Therapy to correct these defective genes, which are responsible for the development of a disease. There are one of four possible ways that a scientist could use Gene Therapy to replace the faulty gene.

(These four ways of gene therapy were found via http://www.ornl.gov) *

1. A normal gene may be inserted into a non-specific location within the genome to

a non-functional gene. This approach is most common.

2. An abnormal gene could be swapped for a normal gene through homologous

Recombination (this is when two strands of DNA cross over each other so the strand

with the

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