Human DNA: Can Medical Science Overcome Our Genes?
DNA is what makes us us. Quite literally – it is the building block of every single thing that we are. Our DNA is at the cellular level. It gives one person blue eyes and one person brown eyes – one person blonde hair and one person red hair. DNA defines our height and weight, in the absence of environmental conditions. It also predisposes us to diseases and disorders and in that way defines our lifespan. Science is rapidly coming to terms with DNA, but much of it is still a mystery.
As defined by News Medical Life Sciences:
DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid. It is located in the nuclei of cells, which make up the body…Cells of different organs vary according to their function. Each cell contains the hereditary material and can make copies of themselves by reproducing and multiplying. After a specific life span the old cells die off. Parts of the cell are called organelles. Human cells contain the following major parts:
- Nucleus – This is the central part of the cell that carries the blueprint for the cell functioning and tells the cell when to grow, reproduce and die. It also houses DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).
- Mitochondria – These are the powerhouses of the cell and produce energy for the various activities of the cell.
- Cytoplasm – This is a jelly like fluid within the cell in which the other organelles float.
- Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) – This helps in processing the molecules (e.g. proteins) created by the cell.
- Ribosomes – These lie over the ER and process the genetic instructions or the blueprints within the DNA and create new proteins. These can also float freely in the cytoplasm.
- Lysosomes and peroxisomes – These help in digesting foreign bacteria that invade the cell, rid the cell of toxic substances.
- Cell membrane – This is the outer lining of the cell.
Within the nucleus the DNA strands are tightly packed to form chromosomes. During the cell division the chromosomes are visible. Each chromosome has a constriction point called the centromere from where two arms are formed. The short arm of the chromosome is labelled the “p arm.” The long arm of the chromosome is labeled the “q arm.” Each pair of chromosomes is shaped differently by the location of the centromere and the size of the p and q arms. Humans normally have 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Twenty-two of these pairs, called autosomes, look the same in both males and females. The 23rd pair is called the sex chromosomes and differs between males and females. Females have two copies of the X chromosome or XX, while males have one X and one Y chromosome.
Genes are hereditary material that lies within the cell nucleus. Genes, which are made up of DNA, act as instructions to make molecules called proteins. The Human Genome Project has estimated that humans have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. Every person has two copies of each gene, one inherited from each parent. These are mostly similar in all people but a small number of genes (less than 1 percent of the total) are slightly different between people and this forms the basis of paternity tests and DNA analysis.
So can we, as medical professionals, overcome DNA and change the course of people’s future? We have touched on this topic before and landed on the answer being a strong affirmative.
DNA and The Skin
As we point out in our piece on “How Advances in DNA-Discoveries will Change Our Work,” people can get a DNA test for their skin that generates an analysis and report on certain “key genetic markers.”
Fine Lines and Wrinkles: Glucose-related fine lines and wrinkles, including anti-wrinkle promotion and wrinkle formation factors.
Sun Protection: Gene variations that can weaken the skin’s natural protection against the sun.
Skin Sensitivity: Four genes that regulate the body’s inflammatory response and one gene related to pollution and fragrance sensitivity.
Skin Elasticity: Quality of collagen structure that supports the skin and tests for collagen depreciation.
Pigmentation: Two genes can affect an individual’s tanning response, including a predisposition to burning and sun spots, as well as the “freckle factor” gene that influences the production of melanin.
Collagen Quality: Four genes are tested for collagen fiber formation, collagen repair (including skin barrier protection), and collagen breakdown, which determines how well a person’s body forms and remodels collagen.
Skin Antioxidants: Checks five genes associated with protecting the skin against free-radical damage, including free-radical scavengers that protect the skin from oxidative damage as well as pollution protection.
The idea of growing genetically modified skin for therapeutic use was first proposed in 1994 by dermatologist Gerald Krueger at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and De Luca and his team reported the results from an initial small clinical trial of genetically modified skin grafting back in 2006. The recipient was a 36-year-old man with JEB caused by a LAMB3mutation. He was treated with nine small patches of skin that were grown from his own epidermal cells and modified with a viral vector expressing the missing gene. The grafts remained stable and healthy for more than a year, proving that the technique had the potential to provide long-term correction of the condition.
The implications are deep and wide and the possibilities are limitless. As gene therapy science advances we will have tools at our disposal to help give people truly an entirely new skin – one that might even be altered to stay looking younger much longer. And while that may sound like science fiction, we are likely closer than you think.
The Future and DNA-For Anti-Aging
It isn’t really as science fiction as it may have sounded even a couple of years ago. Fact is that DNA and gene therapy is already being used to combat the inevitable (until now) march of aging. However, it is working by disrupting the natural progression that genes are programmed for, as pointed out in Science Daily last year.
A study led by the University of Exeter Medical School has found that certain genes and pathways that regulate splicing factors — a group of proteins in our body that tell our genes how to behave — play a key role in the aging process. Significantly, the team found that disrupting these genetic processes could reverse signs of aging in cells.
That research is changing things fast for us. Stay tuned and plan to attend SCALE Music City 2020 to get the latest on the technology, information and science so you can, in turn, deliver it to your clients and patients.