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Can Cystic Fibrosis be Prevented?
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At this time, preventing cystic fibrosis is not possible. In babies with two abnormal CF genes, the disease is already present at birth in some organs, such as the pancreas and liver, but develops only after birth in the lungs. Someday, gene therapy may be used to prevent the lung disease from developing.
Yet, CF might be prevented in the future. Since CF occurs only when both parents pass on a CF gene to a child, it could be prevented by identifying all carriers of CF genes. Genetic counselors might then persuade couples who are carriers not to have children. However, as noted, current tests can detect only some of the more than 400 gene mutations and so the tests are only 80-85 percent accurate.
Yet, progress in gene therapy and the realization that not all CF mutations
are life-threatening should reassure couples. Potential parents who carry the
defective gene may choose to have children.
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