Genetic cure hopes ‘unfounded’, says UK scientist

April 21st, 2009 - 6:17 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Apr 21 (ANI): A leading British scientist has cast doubts on claims that genetic research could provide a cure for a host of common illnesses, insisting they are “plainly wrong”.

Prof Steve Jones, head of the biology department at University College London, claims that the hope has proved a “false dawn”.

He has called for a complete rethink of what he calls the “scattergun” approach to genetic research, which has millions of pounds investments.

Jones said there had been “too much optimism” surrounding research into genes and that there was a danger it had become “largely unfounded”.

“Just a couple of years ago, there was real optimism that a new era of understanding was around the corner,” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.

“That did not last long, for hubris has been replaced with concern.

“Of course there have been some successes, but it is the ‘cure all’ aspect of the work that has proved unfounded.

“It is the nature of the business that occasionally you go down the wrong road and that pretty much is what looks like has happened now,” he added.

He said that scientists initiated on a search for genes responsible for just about every modern malady, hoping such conditions could be blamed on a small set of genes - which could then lead to a cure.

But the more they investigated, the more complicated finding a cure became.

Many individual genes reveal little about the real risk of illness, and diet and the environment also had a significant impact on the development of disease.

Prof Jones said it might be time to “stop throwing good money after bad”.

“Genetics has been a series of revolutions of diminished expectations. It doesn’t look very optimistic,” he said.

“We have wandered into a blind alley and it might be better that we come out of it and start again.

“We thought it [genetic research] was going to change our lives but that has turned out to be a false dawn,” he added.

However, Prof Marcus Pembrey, a clinical geneticist and chairman of the Progress Education Trust, doesn’t believe that the research “was a waste of time or money”.

“There is nothing wrong with genetic research and it had some breakthroughs but it has not turned out to be the panacea that it was first hoped,” he said.

He said the focus of research should be on studying human genes and how they are affected by and interact with the environment - especially when people are young. (ANI)

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