Gene therapy and the next frontier of medicine

Gene therapy and the next frontier of medicine

October 11, 20192 min read

Genetic testing today is mainstream, marketing to consumers who want to know where in Europe they came from or what types of hereditary diseases they could develop. For around $200 you can trace your family tree to learn your origins or identify genetic abnormalities that could signal disease. James Dahlman, assistant professor in the College of Engineering’s biomedical engineering department, specializes in genetics and believes these genotyping services can be helpful, as long as they are used responsibly.

“If you’re going to start making medical predictions, you have to be careful,” said Dahlman. “Most people are not equipped to interpret statistics correctly, which can lead to negative predicting and ethical dilemmas. In a few years, genetic counselors will be in high demand so folks can make better decisions about their health.”

Dahlman is fascinated by genetics, citing gene therapy as the most interesting field in the world. And it’s a field that he is revolutionizing through his research. Gene therapy is an experimental technique that uses genes to treat or prevent diseases, including hemophilia, Parkinson’s, cancer and HIV. It can help manage a number of diseases by leveraging genes instead of drugs or surgery. Although gene therapy shows promise, there are still risks involved, including unwanted immune system reactions or the risk of the wrong cells being targeted. That’s where Dahlman’s research comes in.

Dahlman’s lab focuses on drug delivery vehicles, which are nanoparticles. The nanoparticle delivers gene therapies to the right place in the body to fight disease. It’s critical that the gene therapies only target the unhealthy cells to avoid damaging healthy ones. Dahlman is laser focused on ensuring the nanoparticles know what paths to take to reach the correct organ to start the healing process.

“The issue with genetically-engineered drugs is that they don’t work unless they get to the right cell in the body,” said Dahlman. “You can have the world’s best genetic drug that's going to fix a tumor or eradicate plaque, but it’s not going to be effective unless it travels to the right organ. In my lab, we design different nanoparticles to deliver the genetically-engineered drugs to the correct location.”

The field of genetic therapy is fascinating – and if you are a journalist looking to cover this topic or have questions for upcoming stories – let our experts help.

James Dahlman is an Assistant Professor in the Georgia Tech BME Department. He is an expert in the area of biomedical engineering and uses molecular biology to rationally design the genetic drugs he delivers. This research is redefining the field of genetic therapy. Dr. Dahlman is available to speak with media – simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.

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  • James Dahlman
    James Dahlman Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering

    James Dahlman uses molecular biology to rationally design the genetic drugs he delivers.

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