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Novel therapies

The genetic approach

The recent unravelling of the human genome, as well as that of dozens of pathogenic micro-organisms, has already helped to identify many genes associated with disease. A better understanding of how genes work raises hopes for radically new medical treatments in the future.
Gene therapy research focuses on the introduction of genes to repair cellular malfunction. For instance, viruses are used as carriers for introducing anticancer genes into tumour cells, as a first step towards developing gene-based treatments.

Cell therapies utilise the inherent power of the cells themselves – mainly undifferentiated stem cells – which can perform different functions when they eventually develop into specialised types, replacing defective cells or regenerating damaged tissue.

Muscular disorders of genetic origin

By means of a three-year project currently under way, it is hoped to gain a better understanding of genetic diseases of the muscles, many of which can prove fatal.


Cell therapy: cells from the umbilical cord might prove useful in the treatment of leukaemia

Blood cells taken at birth from the umbilical cord contain undifferentiated stem cells. These are stored in special blood banks worldwide, to be used later for treatment of blood disorders such as leukemia. In one study, the ability of these cells was examined to treat a large variety of diseases, including infectious and genetic ones.


Gene therapy: certain viruses may be used to introduce anticancer genes into living cells

A new technique is being developed using parvoviruses as carriers to introduce anticancer genes into tumour cells. Tests in mice have shown tumour formation down by 90%. It is hoped there could be similar success in humans.


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New medicine