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Curing Genetic Disorders (Terra Futura)

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By 2030, it was possible to cure genetic disorders. Curing genetic disorders was the holy grail of genomic medicine.

(Note: The background section of this page uses most of the words from the genomic medicine page of Terra Futura to save time.)

Background

Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA is a molecule which holds the genetic information of a living organism. Frederich Mischer discovered it in 1869. However, it was not until 1953 that the double helix was discovered. The men who discovered the double helix were James Watson and Francis Crick. When DNA was discovered, few ever thought it could be used for anything. In 1984, however, Sir Alec Jeffries used DNA to prove paternity. In 1988, DNA evidence was used to convict Colin Pitchfork of the murders of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth. In 1993, the Human Genome Project was started. It was intended to decode the entire human genome using computers. The project succeeded by 2001. It was thought that genetic engineering would soon take off. This was helped by a DNA computer.

In 1994, just as the Human Genome Project was starting, scientist Leonard Adelman of the University of Southern California demonstrated a successful DNA computer. Much of the success that followed came from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. The scientists there developed a successful DNA computer in 2002. They incorporated a module that could cure cancer in 2004. After that, the DNA computer was commercialized. DNA computers never found there way into consumer products. However, DNA computers were used to better diagnose conditions. This made for better medicine. This also helped in improving the process of genetic engineering, thus allowing genetic disorders to be cured without compromising the good parts of the genes that caused them. It was a revolution in biotechnology.

The cost of the Human Genome Project had cost $3 billion. It was predicted that by 2020 the cost would go down far enough for everyone to have their personal genome on a CD. While working at Stanford, scientist Stephen Quake perfecting whole genome sequencing. The cost went down as far as $1,000 by 2015. By that point, a whole lot of people had their genomes sequenced. Laws had been passed to ban genetic discrimination. By 2020, the cost had gone down to $100. By then, almost everyone had their genomes sequenced. Already, many people were taking medicines that were targeting specific genes. Lifespans increased as a result. Soon, genetic disorders would be cured.

Description

Tech Level: 10-11

In the 2020s, nanotechnology started being used to alter a person's genetic code to eliminate genetic disorders. Single-gene disorders were the first to go. The first of these to go was sickle cell anemia which was found mostly in African-Americans. There was a problem. The gene that caused sickle cell anemia also increased a person's immunity to malaria. The solution, which required nanotechnology, was to modify the part of the gene that caused the disease while keeping the beneficial part. Other genetic disorders that were eliminated included Tay-Sachs disease which was found mainly in Ashkenazi Jews and cystic fibrosis which was found mainly in Germanic peoples. The most difficult genetic disorders to cure were multiple-gene disorders like cancer. In fact, cancer was one of the most widely studied genetic disorders.

Scientists had been trying to cure cancer since 1971. There were few successes until the Human Genome Project revealed the genes for cancer. There were multiple solutions to target cancer. These included antiangiogenesis which was pioneered by Jewish physician Judah Folkman, nanoparticles that delivered cancer drugs such as bee venom to cancer cells pioneered by Sam Wickline, new drugs that targeted only cancer cells, new vaccines like the controversial Gardasil that targeted cancer-causing viruses such as HPV, and especially gene therapy. In 2005, the Cancer Genome Atlas was started to find all the exact genes known to cause cancer. One gene targeted was a gene that created a protein called p53 which protected. p53 could be damaged by carcinogens. In 2030, a scientist developed a genetic manipulation process that fixed p53 and also improved it, making p53 more resistant to carcinogens. In fact, by the 2030s, people were genetic engineering to improve a person's DNA as well. This would lead to supersoldiers.

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