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Topic last updated: 30 Sep 2021
    • Ico Human Biology Human biology
    • Biologybiology Biology
    • Ico Citizenship Studies PSHE / Citizenship studies
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Diabetes 16+

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Gene therapy for diabetes

A potential future treatment for type 1 diabetes is gene therapy. Researchers have identified a faulty gene which means that people with the gene are more likely to develop diabetes. In the future, this gene could be replaced by a fully-working version of the gene. This could prevent people from getting diabetes in the first place or reverse the condition in people who have developed the condition.

In theory, gene therapy could be performed on embryos before they were implanted into the womb during in vitro fertilisation treatment.

Is this a step too far for science or a great leap forward for medicine?


Play the videos to hear these people's views.

Emily's view

The benefits of gene therapy

School student Emily discusses the benefits of gene therapy. Video featured on the ABPI Resources for Schools website

"I don't think there is any problem with doing research into gene therapy. The scientists tell us that it could cure loads of diseases and that can only be a good thing. I mean, if I'd found that there was something wrong with me then I would want to get it sorted out. If that means getting someone else's genes that would be fine, if they were working properly and solved the problem. I know some people think it would be like making new mutants or something but I think the scientists know what they're doing. And anyhow, there are laws to stop them doing anything dangerous. I think it's a good thing."

Priyanka's view

Concerns about gene therapy

School student Priyanka discusses her concerns about gene therapy. Video featured on the ABPI Resources for Schools website

"I'm not sure about all this genetic engineering and gene therapy stuff. I'm not sure if it should be allowed or not. I think it's worth trying out new treatments if they could help people in the future. Especially if it means they get to live longer, or if they have a very poor quality of life without the treatment. I think there's still a lot of research needed to be done before scientists can be sure it's completely safe for humans. But then, medicine only progresses by trying new treatments, even if the early patients die. That's what happened with heart transplants and look at how many lives they save now. I'm not completely convinced. I mean, gene therapy is manipulating genes and is a bit like interfering with nature. And I'm not sure that is the right thing to do."

What do you think about gene therapy?

  • What are the benefits and risks of developing gene therapy?
  • How would you feel if you had a genetic disorder that could not be treated in any other way?
  • Should research into it be allowed or should it be banned?

You can find out more about gene therapy in our resource on Genes and Inheritance.