A scientist, Dr Rose Gidado has said that with the advanced biotechnology which is called Gene Editing, some terminal disease like cancer, and the sickle cell can be cured permanently without introducing a foreign gene into the patient.
Gene editing, or genome engineering, is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in the genome of a living organism.
Dr Gidado, speaking on Wednesday in Abuja at the Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), said gene editing could be used to change the SS genotype to AS or AA.
Dr Gidado who is also the Country Coordinator of Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology (OFAB), noted that gene editing could be used to silence any gene responsible for an ailment in a patient, using enzymes or removed completely from the patient.
She explained: “Sickle cell is lifetime, it is genetic, but you can use gene editing to knock out those genes that are making you have cancer, and your offsprings for generations will not have it, because that gene that is making you prone to cancer will not be there again.
“The gene can be manipulated or suppressed, you don’t even need to bring gene from somewhere else, with gene editing, you are just editing, like carrying out operation, removing something from someone, the same thing can be done with the genes, open up and check the genome of someone who is sickle or who has cancer, and then look out for that gene that is responsible for the ailment, you silence it, you can use enzymes to silence it or you remove it.
“It is very useful, it gives life back to those who have no hope, it gives hope back to them. For example a sickle cell patient, some of these children don’t have the energy to do work even in school, sometimes they will spend one week missing in school, but you can change that genotype from SS to AS or AA, and the person has a life back”.
Speaking on the relationship between scientists and doctors on biotechnology, Dr Gidado said “because of our interaction and presentations the NMA is beginning to understand this technology, I think the coast is getting clearer because most of them now believe that biotechnology is very beneficial and a scientific venture.
“We are in this business together because whatever we are doing, we are actually doing it to improve crop productivity in Nigeria, to enhance food security, and of course we have to at the same time, ensure that what we are developing is very safe for humans, safe for animals and safe to the environment.
“We really need to get their buy-in, we really need them to key into the technology so that they can also carry out their own safety assessment, we just need to work together with the medical doctors and get them to understand, so that they believe that life does not only exist in their own sector but also in the agricultural sector”.