An alarming 65% of adults in Britain are confused and unclear as to what is meant by the term `gene cloning’ according to a recent MORI poll on genetics and cloning commissioned by Action Research, one of the UK’s leading medical charities.
However, 74% of the public agrees that gene therapy is acceptable if tightly controlled, once the process was explained to them.
The poll also found that the majority of adults - three out of every four - say that it is likely that they would allow their child to undergo gene therapy in order to treat a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis, if it was thought the process might help.
While 35% of people understood the term `gene cloning’, a similar proportion of 32% consider it refers to producing cloned animals such as Dolly the Sheep. One in five is unable to give any answer.
The survey coincides with the launch of the Touching Lives campaign - Action Research’s national campaign to raise £1.5 million for research into conditions affecting children and families.
Overall, attitudes to gene cloning and gene therapy are overwhelmingly more positive than negative despite the fact that many knew little about these processes before taking part in the survey.
79% agree that gene therapy will play an important part in the future of medical research
74% agree that gene therapy is acceptable if tightly controlled
85% of those in Scotland say they would be likely to let their child undergo gene therapy, compared with 74% in England and 73% in Wales
Londoners are significantly less likely to say they would let their child undergo gene therapy (62% compared to 75% in the population as a whole)
77% of men agree that gene therapy is acceptable if tightly controlled compared with 71% of women
Commenting on the survey, Action Research’s Director of Communications and Marketing, John Grounds said: ``The results of our MORI poll are very encouraging - especially the fact that almost eight in ten believe that gene therapy will play an important part in the future of medical research. However, these results clearly demonstrate the lack of understanding in Britain of exactly what gene cloning and gene therapy are, and their importance in modern life.’’
He added: ``More needs to be done to cut through the media’s sensationalism and instead focus on the importance of genetic research and its role in the vital work that Action Research and other organisations fund.’’
In 1999 Action Research allocated nearly 30% of its funds towards medical research in the field of genetics - a total commitment of just over £1.2 million.
In one Action Research project, researchers at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne have already discovered a gene responsible for a type of muscular dystrophy which was previously poorly recognised. The project now aims to determine exactly how many people are affected by this type of muscular dystrophy in order to better understand the disease and improve the help given to these patients.
In another of the charity’s studies, medical specialists at the Imperial College School of Medicine in conjunction with the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London are investigating two methods for gene therapy to treat Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. This disease affects about 1 in 5000 people and causes the limbs to become progressively weaker and deformed. Symptoms usually start between the ages of five and fifteen and at present there are no effective treatments.
Despite the clear need for further public education on the issue, former Action Research grant holder and world expert in the field of medical genetics, Professor Martin Bobrow found the level of support for genetic research reassuring. He said: ``These findings confirm yet again strong public support for using genetics to improve our understanding and treatment of disease.”
Notes for Editors: Gene cloning is the process whereby identical copies of a single gene are produced - for example, a healthy cystic fibrosis gene.
Gene therapy, on the other hand, is the process whereby it is attempted to introduce this healthy gene into a patient to overcome or alleviate a genetic disease.
MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 2,072 (male and female) adults aged 15 plus between 3-7 February 2000. All interviews were face to face, in-home, and were conducted across 156 sampling points throughout Great Britain. Data has been weighted to reflect the national profile.
For further details please contact Michele Corrado or Kay Wright at MORI tel 0171 928 5955 or e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or view MORI’s website for the full topline results at www.mori.com
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