Background. Gene therapy is an emerging field of biomedicine that has commanded considerable scientific and popular attention. The procedure involves the transfer of genes to patients for clinical benefit. Transferred genes can be used for either reparative or pharmacological purposes. Overview. In 1995, the first author and a colleague described the potential impact of gene therapy on dentistry, on the basis of initial studies of gene transfer applications to salivary glands, keratinocytes and cancer cells. Their conclusion was that gene therapy would have a significant impact on the nature of dental practice within 20 years. In this article, the authors consider research progress since 1995 and reexamine the earlier conclusion. Practice Implications. In the past six years, remarkable progress has been made in the field of gene therapy, including seven areas relevant to dental practice: bone repair, salivary glands, autoimmune disease, pain, DNA vaccinations, keratinocytes and cancer. While considerable problems remain, thus impeding the routine clinical use of gene transfer, gene therapy will have a pervasive and significant impact on areas of dental practice that are based in biological science. By 2015, this will translate into practitioners' having a wide range of novel biological treatment options for their patients.
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