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Genetic engineering has been one of the most controversial ethical issues since 1997; when Dolly the first successfully cloned sheep was announced. Dolly has redefined the meaning of? identical twin? ; not only does she look exactly like her mother she also has the same genetic make up. This experiment was not only impossible but unthinkable.
Yet, Dr. Ian Wilmut revealed Dolly on February 23, 1997, at seven months old (Travis 1). On the surface genetic engineering may appear to be the solution to all of society? s ills and the worlds problems. In all actuality it may have tremendous and unknown side effects. The issues that surround genetic engineering undoubtedly make it immoral and ethically wrong.
Long term prospects of mammal cloning remain in question. this is no where near clinically acceptable for experimentation on humans. The answer is clear there is no safe place to draw the line on when genetic engineering is acceptable and is not. Governments can not say that the uses are strictly limited to curing disease because then there becomes a question of what is a genetic disease. For example, we may feel comfortable defining a mutation in the cystic fibrosis gene as causing disease if it leads to chronic respiratory infections from birth to death at the age of twenty five. However a different mutations in the same gene might caused little or no problem is this also cystic fibrosis?
Other unknown aspects of an individuals genetic make-up and environmental factors also influence the outcome. Soon to be parents were advised that their child had an extra chromosome that would not cause Down syndrome, but this mutation was possibly linked to other undesirable traits such as severe acne and aggressive behavior. Given those circumstances the parents of a would be infant, may selfishly chose to abort the child (She 6). To many Americans today the abortion of that child was wrong yet, in a genetically altered society the egg would be thrown away, implying that it was not normal or was not what the parents wanted. To simply remove the gene that causes increased aggression and reprogram it to be very passive and optimistic, is a possibility for parents. But why stop there?
The parents agree that their child will be tall, peaking somewhere between five feet eight and five feet eleven female and near six feet three inches because dad wants a NFL quarterback and mom want a super model. Both mom and dad have decided that the child should be smart, to take out the obesity gene, the gene that controls the risk of alcoholism, also the one that runs the risk of the child getting lung cancer, and lastly the gene that is prone to hereditary heart failure. It is at this point where you find the parents searching for their children in a catalogs, altering the child so much they now have a child who looks nothing like either of them. The issue of sex selection with in the United States would not have immediate effects, but in the long run we could become like China and India are now, aborting one sex in order to control the population of male / female ratios within the society (Hughes 11). By condoning genetic manipulation or cloning the world see one the most important values disappear. Genetic engineering will destroy individualism and become more of a fashion, much like we see New York fashion shows go through.
From one summer to the next the fashions change as will the use of genetic engineering. Blonde hair and green eyes will only last as a trend for so long thus, creating a child on what the current trend is. Individualism would be destroyed. A bigger cultural concern about genetic technology is that people will begin to see genetics as more central and influential in life than they should. Eugenics and genetic determinism are being fueled by contemporary genetic technology and research, at the expense of attempts to ameliorate social ills. (Hughes 9).
Many opponents of genetic engineering and the investigation that has gone into it are concerned that the growing knowledge of genetics will lead to discrimination and the problem that may be raised with confidentiality. It? s a well known fact that employers are already attempting to discover the genetic risk of their employees and deny or limit employment or health care on the basis of that risk profile. Keeping genetic information confidential from insurers and other non-medical personnel in the health care system is trickier, since the records will show any special screening or treatment that genetic risks called for. This could strengthen the powers of insurers in enabling them to exclude any person from obtaining coverage based on their genetic make up (Hughes 10). Currently there are medical procedures within this country that most insurance companies will not cover but wealthy people who fall stricken with these diseases are able to pay for treatment.
Does genetic manipulation hold the same fate? The answer to this is yes, the people would find themselves broadening the economic gap between the rich and the poor. Not only that, but we would find ourselves a genetically divided society. The rich being genetically altered and the middle and lower classes genetically inferior (Hughes 11 - 12) Privacy and confidentiality may also be threatened if a family member gets a genetic test and the results imply that untested relatives also have the disease, have an increased risk of having it, or even being a carrier. Some family members may not wish to submit themselves to these physical discomforts. To answer the question when might genetic engineering go too far, it already has if there can be article written about it, that in turn, allowed me to write this paper.
Genetic Engineering, history and future Altering the Face of Science Science is a creature that continues to evolve at a much higher rate than the beings that gave it birth. The transformation time from tree-shrew, to ape, to human far exceeds the time from analytical engine, to calculator, to computer. But science, in the past, has always remained distant. It has allowed for advances in production, transportation, and even entertainment, but never in history will science be able to so deeply affect our lives as genetic engineering will undoubtedly do. With the birth of this new technology, scientific extremists and anti-technologists have risen in arms to block its budding future. Spreading fear by misinterpretation of facts, they promote their hidden agendas in the halls of the United States congress.
Genetic engineering is a safe and powerful tool that will yield unprecedented results, specifically in the field of medicine. It will usher in a world where gene defects, bacterial disease, and even aging are a thing of the past. By understanding genetic engineering and its history, discovering its possibilities, and answering the moral and safety questions it brings forth, the blanket of fear covering this remarkable technical miracle can be lifted. The possibilities of genetic engineering are endless.
Once the power to control the instructions, given to a single cell, are mastered anything can be accomplished. For example, insulin can be created and grown in large quantities by using an inexpensive gene manipulation method of growing a certain bacteria. This supply of insulin is also not dependant on the supply of pancreatic tissue from animals. Recombinant factor VIII, the blood clotting agent missing in people suffering from hemophilia, can also be created by genetic engineering. Virtually all people who were treated with factor VIII before 1985 acquired HIV, and later AIDS. Being completely pure, the bioengineer ed version of factor VIII eliminates any possibility of viral infection.
Other uses of genetic engineering include creating disease resistant crops, formulating milk from cows already containing pharmaceutical compounds, generating vaccines, and altering livestock traits (Clarke 1). In the not so distant future, genetic engineering will become a principal player in fighting genetic, bacterial, and viral disease, along with controlling aging, and providing replaceable parts for humans. Medicine has seen many new innovations in its history. The discovery of anesthetics permitted the birth of modern surgery, while the production of antibiotics in the 1920 s minimized the threat from diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and cholera. The creation of serums which build up the bodies immune system to specific infections, before being laid low with them, has also enhanced modern medicine greatly (Stableford 59). All of these discoveries, however, will fall under the broad shadow of genetic engineering when it reaches its apex in the medical community.
Many people suffer from genetic diseases ranging from thousands of types of cancers, to blood, liver, and lung disorders. Amazingly, all of these will be able to be treated by genetic engineering, specifically, gene therapy. The basis of gene therapy is to supply a functional gene to cells lacking that particular function, thus correcting the genetic disorder or disease. There are two main categories of gene therapy: germ line therapy, or altering of sperm and egg cells, and somatic cell therapy, which is much like an organ transplant.
Germ line therapy results in a permanent change for the entire organism, and its future offspring. Unfortunately, germ line therapy, is not readily in use on humans for ethical reasons. However, this genetic method could, in the future, solve many genetic birth defects such as downs syndrome. Somatic cell therapy deals with the direct treatment of living tissues. Scientists, in a lab, inject the tissues with the correct, functioning gene and then re-administer them to the patient, correcting the problem (Clarke 1). Along with altering the cells of living tissues, genetic engineering has also proven extremely helpful in the alteration of bacterial genes.
Transforming bacterial cells is easier than transforming the cells of complex organisms (Stableford 34). Two reasons are evident for this ease of manipulation: DNA enters, and functions easily in bacteria, and the transformed bacteria cells can be easily selected out from the untransformed ones. Bacterial bioengineering has many uses in our society, it can produce synthetic insulin's, a growth hormone for the treatment of dwarfism and interferons for treatment of cancers and viral diseases (Stableford 34). Throughout the centuries disease has plagued the world, forcing everyone to take part in a virtual lottery with the agents of death (Stableford 59). Whether viral or bacterial in nature, such disease are currently combated with the application of vaccines and antibiotics. These treatments, however, contain many unsolved problems.
The difficulty with applying antibiotics to destroy bacteria is that natural selection allows for the mutation of bacteria cells, sometimes resulting in mutant bacterium which is resistant to a particular antibiotic. This now indestructible bacterial pestilence wages havoc on the human body. Genetic engineering is conquering this medical dilemma by utilizing diseases that target bacterial organisms. these diseases are viruses, named bacteriophages, which can be produced to attack specific disease-causing bacteria (Stableford 61). Much success has already been obtained by treating animals with a phage designed to attack the E.
coli bacteria (Stableford 60). Diseases caused by viruses are much more difficult to control than those caused by bacteria. Viruses are not whole organisms, as bacteria are, and reproduce by hijacking the mechanisms of other cells. Therefore, any treatment designed to stop the virus itself, will also stop the functioning of its host cell. A virus invades a host cell by piercing it at a site called a receptor. Upon attachment, the virus injects its DNA into the cell, coding it to reproduce more of the virus.
After the virus is replicated millions of times over, the cell bursts and the new viruses are released to continue the cycle. The bodys natural defense against such cell invasion is to release certain proteins, called antigens, which plug up the receptor sites on healthy cells. This causes the foreign virus to not have a docking point on the cell. This process, however, is slow and not effective against a new viral attack. Genetic engineering is improving the bodys defenses by creating pure antigens, or antibodies, in the lab for injection upon infection with a viral disease. This pure, concentrated antibody halts the symptoms of such a disease until the bodies natural defenses catch up.
Future procedures may alter the very DNA of human cells, causing them to produce interferons. These interferons would allow the cell to be able determine if a foreign body bonding with it is healthy or a virus. In effect, every cell would be able to recognize every type of virus and be immune to them all (Stableford 61). Current medical capabilities allow for the transplant of human organs, and even mechanical portions of some, such as the battery powered pacemaker.
Current science can even re-apply fingers after they have been cut off in accidents, or attach synthetic arms and legs to allow patients to function normally in society. But would not it be incredibly convenient if the human body could simply regrow what it needed, such as a new kidney or arm? Genetic engineering can make this a reality. Currently in the world, a single plant cell can differentiate into all the components of an original, complex organism.
Certain types of salamanders can re-grow lost limbs, and some lizards can shed their tails when attacked and later grow them again. Evidence of regeneration is all around and the science of genetic engineering is slowly mastering its techniques. Regeneration in mammals is essentially a kind of controlled cancer, called a blastema. The cancer is deliberately formed at the regeneration site and then converted into a structure of functional tissues. But before controlling the blastema is possible, a detailed knowledge of the switching process by means of which the genes in the cell nucleus are selectively activated and deactivated is needed (Stableford 90). To obtain proof that such a procedure is possible one only needs to examine an early embryo and realize that it knows whether to turn itself into an ostrich or a human.
After learning the procedure to control and activate such regeneration, genetic engineering will be able to conquer such ailments as Parkinsons, Alzheimers, and other crippling diseases without grafting in new tissues. The broader scope of this technique would allow the re-growth of lost limbs, repairing any damaged organs internally, and the production of spare organs by growing them externally (Stableford 90). Ever since biblical times the lifespan of a human being has been pegged at roughly 70 years. But is this number truly finite? In order to uncover the answer, knowledge of the process of aging is needed. A common conception is that the human body contains an internal biological clock which continues to tick for about 70 years, then stops.
An alternate watch analogy could be that the human body contains a certain type of alarm clock, and after so many years, the alarm sounds and deterioration beings. With that frame of thinking, the human body does not begin to age until a particular switch is tripped. In essence, stopping this process would simply involve a means of never allowing the switch to be tripped. W.
Donner Denckla, of the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology, proposes the alarm clock theory is true. He provides evidence for this statement by examining the similarities between normal aging and the symptoms of a hormonal deficiency disease associated with the thyroid gland. Denckla proposes that as we get older the pituitary gland begins to produce a hormone which blocks the actions of the thyroid hormone, thus causing the body to age and eventually die. If Denckla's theory is correct, conquering aging would simply be a process of altering the pituitary's DNA so it would never be allowed to release the aging hormone.
In the years to come, genetic engineering may finally defeat the most unbeatable enemy in the world, time (Stableford 94). The morale and safety questions surrounding genetic engineering currently cause this new science to be cast in a false light. Anti-technologists and political extremists spread false interpretation of facts coupled with statements that genetic engineering is not natural and defies the natural order of things. The morale question of biotechnology can be answered by studying where the evolution of man is, and where it is leading our society.
The safety question can be answered by examining current safety precautions in industry, and past safety records of many bioengineering projects already in place. The evolution of man can be broken up into three basic stages. The first, lasting millions of years, slowly shaped human nature from Homo erectus to Home sapiens. Natural selection provided the means for countless random mutations resulting in the appearance of such human characteristics as hands and feet. The second stage, after the full development of the human body and mind, saw humans moving from wild foragers to an agriculture based society.
Natural selection received a helping hand as man took advantage of random mutations in nature and bred more productive species of plants and animals. The most bountiful wheat's were collected and re-planted, and the fastest horses were bred with equally faster horses. Even in our recent history the strongest black male slaves were mated with the hardest working female slaves. The third stage, still developing today, will not require the chance acquisition of super-mutations in nature. Man will be able to create such super-species without the strict limitations imposed by natural selection. By examining the natural slope of this evolution, the third stage is a natural and inevitable plateau that man will achieve (Stableford 8).
This omniscient control of our world may seem completely foreign, but the thought of the Egyptians erecting vast pyramids would have seem strange to Homo erectus as well. Many claim genetic engineering will cause unseen disasters spiraling our world into chaotic darkness. However, few realize that many safety nets regarding bioengineering are already in effect. The Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) was formed under the National Institute of Health to provide guidelines for research on engineered bacteria for industrial use.
The RAC has also set very restrictive guidelines requiring Federal approval if research involves pathogenicity (the rare ability of a microbe to cause disease) (Davis, Roche 69). It is well established that most natural bacteria do not cause disease. After many years of experimentation, microbiologists have demonstrated that they can engineer bacteria that are just as safe as their natural counterparts (Davis, Roche 70). In fact the RAC reports that there has not been a single case of illness or harm caused by recombinant [engineered] bacteria, and they now are used safely in high school experiments (Davis, Roche 69). Scientists have also devised other methods of preventing bacteria from escaping their labs, such as modifying the bacteria so that it will die if it is removed from the laboratory environment. This creates a shield of complete safety for the outside world.
It is also thought that if such bacteria were to escape it would act like smallpox or anthrax and ravage the land. However, laboratory-created organisms are not as competitive as pathogens. Davis and Roche sum it up in extremely laymen's terms, no matter how much Frost ban you dump on a field, its not going to spread (70). In fact Frostbran, developed by Steven London at the University of California, Berkeley, was sprayed on a test field in 1987 and was proven by a RAC committee to be completely harmless (Thompson 104).
Fear of the unknown has slowed the progress of many scientific discoveries in the past. The thought of man flying or stepping on the moon did not come easy to the average citizens of the world. But the fact remains, they were accepted and are now an everyday occurrence in our lives. Genetic engineering too is in its period of fear and misunderstanding, but like every great discovery in history, it will enjoy its time of realization and come into full use in society. The world is on the brink of the most exciting step into human evolution ever, and through knowledge and exploration, should welcome it and its possibilities with open arms.
Free research essays on topics related to: evolution of man, germ line therapy, mutations in nature, genetic engineering, somatic cell therapy
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