DNA and Cystic Fibrosis
From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
The discovery of DNA's double helix structure fifty years ago led to an unprecedented blossoming of scientific research and discovery, but some of the hoped-for medical applications of this science have been slower to materialize. In 1989, soon after Courtney and Lindsay Collacutt were diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, the gene responsible for this inherited respiratory disease was isolated. Since children with CF at that time rarely lived beyond their teens or young adulthood, the sisters' parents were elated by predictions that genetically-based treatments might be available within 3-5 years, and a cure within perhaps 10 or 12 years. Though improvements in other forms of treatment have enabled the girls to live active and relatively normal lives, the hope for a cure has not been realized. They still face an uncertain future.
Johanna Rommens, PhD, a member of the team which isolated the CF gene, comments that they had underestimated the complexity of the actions of a single gene, its possible interactions with other genes, and other factors. Still, important progress is still being made. The sister's parents note that, while a genetic cure may not come in time to help their daughters, there is real hope for their grandchildren.
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