Thursday, November 27, 2008

A New Kind of Gene Therapy

Every day scientists are discovering more and more about our genetic structure and how it functions. Some of the things they discover have immediate application in human life and some don't. Some of the discoveries point us towards new directions of thought. Some of the discoveries contradict previous discoveries or point out where previous thought was wrong.

Long ago, scientists of all stripes brought to light that we all have a specialized gene: the I gene. One of the jobs of the I gene is differentiating one unique individual from another. The I gene also plays a part in brain and thinking processes. We see this gene at work when it manifests itself in statements like "I want...," "I don't want...," "I need...," "I don't need...," "I'm not going to do...," "I'm going to do...."

Some people, however, have been working under an erroneous assumption: they believe that the I gene can ONLY work when attached to the U gene. In fact, some of these people believe that the U gene can be easily substituted for the I gene, and that there are many benefits when such a substitution is made. These are the people who frequently shout "U do it...," "U fix it...," "U give me...," "U take care of it...."

Here is the thing, though. By itself, the U gene may or may not work for the benefit of the I gene. Like all genes, the U gene considers its own survival as manifest. Given a choice of survival or death, of health or illness, of convenience or inconvenience, the U gene will opt to protect itself first. I genes that insist on transferring their functions to these U genes may find themselves in deep trouble: the U genes don't always cooperate.

The only time that the I gene/U gene dichotomy can be guaranteed to work for the benefit of both genes is when they undergo gene fusion, resulting in a new gene--the US gene, sometimes also known as the WE gene. In this type of fusion both genes must be joined in tandem for the work of the two individual genes to be completed. Both genes must contribute.

Scientists caution us, however, about becoming too reliant on that I/U fusion. Sometimes the WE/US gene combination is the only thing that will work to guarantee our further existence. And yes, there are a few instances where only a U gene can get the job done. But these scientists warn us that I genes that cannot function independently, that always pass on what is their job to another gene, become the weak or missing link. They caution us that before there can be a WE/US gene combination there has to be a strong I gene. And sometimes the only gene that can effect positive change is the I gene working alone.

Before we blithely look at a job to be done and say "U do it," we need to honestly and openly analyze whether or not the job requires I, U or WE/US. A healthy, functioning body needs all three types of genes to be present and in top working order. The body of Klal has for too long been in genetic imbalance. The I's are too few, the U's are being overworked and the WE/US genes are being spliced into peculiar combinations. I believe that a healthy dose of gene therapy could cure a lot of the maladies that afflict us.

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