August 29, 1996 in Nation/World

‘Dimmer Switch’ Used On Human Gene

Compiled From Wire Services

Scientists planted a human gene in mice and then controlled how hard it worked through a sort of chemical dimmer switch an advance that might one day allow the use of gene therapy to treat diseases like anemia and even diabetes.

It’s the first time that scientists have been able to adjust the activity of a gene given to an adult animal, one expert said.

The dimmer-switch approach may someday mean pills instead of shots for people who take regular doses of proteins for such diseases as dwarfism, muscle wasting from AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, anemia and, after much more research, diabetes.

Such proteins can’t be taken as pills because they are destroyed by the digestive tract. The new strategy would get around that by having the person’s body make the protein using an implanted gene that responds to a drug taken by mouth.

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