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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Human Genetic Engineering
Posted: December 22, 2015 at 10:44 am
Human Genetic Engineering : History 4.93/5 (98.56%) 111 votes
Human Genetic Engineering History goes back to the 1919 when an engineer from Hungary gave a term biotechnology to products developed by using raw materials. The engineer made use of this term in its best possible sense. Civilizations in the ancient times discovered that a lot of products can be made by using micro-organisms.
However, people that time have no idea about there are active agents in the microbes. Back in 7000 B.C. some existing tribes also made precious discoveries about how to make beer using yeast. TheHuman Genetic Engineering History continues going ahead since those times. There is a lot of difference between Biotechnology and genetic engineering.
In one hand, gene manipulation is the result of equating biotechnology. However, many aspects are there that define biotechnology. On the other hand, genetic engineering came to perspective, because of its specific technique for manipulating genes.
The term Human Genetic Engineering made it presence felt in 1970. This is the time when several methods were devised with the help of molecular biologists for identifying or for isolating clone genes. Methods were also devised for manipulating the genes to other species or for mutating them in humans.
Restrictive enzymes got discovered during this research, and many have considered as the main success in the Human Genetic Engineering History. This enzyme can make organisms to isolate the DNA, and then it gets mixed with a vector preparation. Hybrid molecules can easily be generated with the sticky ends virtue. This molecule contains interest genes that can later get inserted into the vector.
Ethical concerns involved in Human Genetics
Many scientists knew that a lot of risk is there during the transfer of genes from one person to the other. Human Genetic Engineering History contains all the factors responsible for the invention of genetic engineering as a part of advance sciences. They found that their labs have been poised when they started experimenting clone genes.
Scientists also organized several meetings in order to discuss the risks involved in the transformation of genes. All scientists were given a chance to keep their points of view on the above subject. They made discussion on all the dangers that can potentially take place during their research. However, the meeting went unprecedented.
In this meeting, they made necessary or relevant decisions regarding the amount of time that might be needed for sorting out the solution. Certain guidelines came to existence for the recombinant organism biological and physical isolation. This should be done for ensuring that the organisms do not get mixed with the environment. Human Genetic Engineering History involves profound or numerous consequences.
Even if these recombinant organisms get mixed in the environment, then there will still be some time to make sure that it does effect the environment to a great effect. Gene cloning was at its peak position, and known to people of all religions and tribes by the end of 1976. Human Genetic Engineering History also involves the different advantages of advantages and disadvantage gene therapy can have on the living things.
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Human Genetic Engineering : History
Posted: October 16, 2015 at 9:45 pm
Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Home
by Carolyn Williams
Much of the technology is now available and with it comes a host of moral and ethical concerns. Is man playing God? Will clones become a subculture? Are we risking genetic disasters? Will this technology benefit all of society or just a select few? Cloned humans and genetically engineered bodies are the stuff that yesterdays science fiction was made of. Today, they are current event topics and promise to become our medical future. We may not be morally prepared for these events, but the technology is here. Do we ignore it, try to regulate it, hope and pray that it goes away or do we embrace this new technology?
I am inclined to agree with Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Biotech Century who writes, Our way of life is likely to be transformed more fundamentally in the next few decades than in the previous thousand years. (1) We are looking ahead to the possibility of cloning or replicating a baby, rather than reproducing one in the old-fashioned ways, growing brains in a jar and correcting genetic disorders in human fetuses. While these ideas may sound sensational and perhaps even frightening to some, they are fast becoming a part of our medical environment.
Cloning and genetic engineering dominate tomorrows medical environment. That is the environment into which todays students will enter. They will inherit the responsibilities as scientists, geneticists, doctors, lawyers, politicians, theologians and educators who will decide if these technologies are ethically and morally acceptable This study will serve as a useful introduction for getting students to think about tomorrows issues.
For some, the concerns have become fears so great that a number of people have called for an outright ban into the practice of cloning human beings. Likewise, the idea of genetically manipulating human DNA cells raises questions about designing ideal human beings and also prompts a call for banning such research.
Those who support the idea of a ban see no benefits in practicing cloning.. Some concerns go toward ideas of immorality for creating in laboratories that which God intended in nature. Others feel that there is much to be gained by continuing the research and testing its possibilities. For that group, cloning offers benefits to infertile couples or those seeking to solve medical problems.
There are those who feel that genetic research technology would be used for immoral purposes. It raises questions of who will be the beneficiaries? How do we guard against creating a preferred race, a selected intelligence or behavior? How do these ideas of creating and engineering life fit into the traditional scheme of procreating? Cloning and genetic engineering eliminate human individuality and deny diversity, according to proponents of the ban.
On the other side of the issue, there is much to be gained by forging ahead with research into this technology and its application. The benefits could well outweigh the fears that many have conjured up about genetic disasters. The problem is that actual results cannot be obtained without testing it on human beings. While early discovery promises that human genome technology has the potential to help solve numerous medical problems that relate to aging, replacement of human body parts, infertility and what we now view as incurable diseases, we cannot know what will happen without applying the technology.
Proponents of the ban feel that the rich and the powerful will dictate who is cloned or how those clones will function in society? Do we dwell on the possibility that some races or classes of people will be eliminated because they were not chosen to be cloned? Do we hold those same fears about genetic engineering? That somehow medical science will be responsible for providing society with a new social weapon over the underprivileged? Are there any good reasons to take the risks?
Although cloning and genetic engineering invite numerous questions about human behavior and societys views of the value of life, would a government ban stifle the potential progress that this technology might bring to our lives? Would an outright ban be a violation of ones constitutional right to find out if our fears are justified?
To create a clone, doctors begin with a single egg cell from any woman. The nucleus of the cell (the part containing the genes) is taken out and replaced with the nucleus of a cell from the person being cloned. The cell can then be implanted into any woman and allowed to grow, develop and be born like any baby. But the woman who carries it is not its mother. It has no mother or father as we understand these terms. It is a clone- a genetic duplicate of its donor. (2)
Cloning is not new. It has existed for years with plants and more recently, with some invertebrates. Now we move to the realm of human cloning. That is cause for more serious consideration. A human being is more than just his or her genes and a clone is more than just a copy of his or her donor. A clone and its donor are identical twins, each with its own individuality and its own soul. These twins will be years apart in age and subject to the environment in which each lives
While the idea of cloning a human being does raise various concerns, mostly fears, the facts as we know them today are that a clone is a duplicate of another human. being. It is no less human or any less individual than the human from which it is copied. However, that knowledge remains to be tested and at this time the country is not prepared to find out if cloning works in practice as it does in theory.
first successful freezing of bull semen – 1950
frogs cloned from asexual tadpole cells- 1952
frogs cloned using cells of older tadpoles- 1962
Baby Louise was conceived in a laboratory dish through in vitro fertilization -1978
Baby M was born to a surrogate mother through artificial issemination-1983
Dolly, the sheep was reproduced in the exact genetic image of its mother- 1996/ 1997
Cloning of a Rhesus monkey whose reproductive development is close to a humans-1997.
Cloning of two more sheep, Molly and Polly with human blood clotting proteins in their milk which will be extracted to treat human hemophilia -1997
Cloning has been successful in these areas. What makes the difference in trying it with human beings? There is a fear that embryos will be manipulated to produce a child with the desired eye or hair color or with enhanced physical prowess or intelligence. Another fear is that a human will be cloned to provide organs for transplants for its genetic twin. (4) We cannot know if these things will happen.
The questions are taken from Lee Silvers Remaking Eden . The information which follows each question briefly summarizes Silvers research and is offered to aid you in your discussion of cloning as a reproductive choice. Each summarized response is followed by a citation note which indicates a range of pages where further clarification of the information can be found in the text.
-Could a woman give birth to her identical twin sister?
Consider the futuristic account of Jennifer and Rachel which begins in the year Jennifer is a thirty-five year old single woman who wants to have a child. Jennifer is well aware that cloning is illegal under federal law, except in the case of infertile women. Unlike twentieth century women who had to rely on sperm donated by a male, Jennifer decided to use her own cells to create new life.
A dozen or so eggs are recovered from Jennifers ovaries and each is fused with a donor cell taken from the inside of her mouth. The incubated eggs yield healthy embryos that are then implanted into Jennifers uterus. Nine months later, a healthy baby girl, Rachel is born to Jennifer.
Clearly Jennifer is Rachels birth mother because Rachel was born from Jennifers body. Rachel has no father because there is no male involvement. Jennifer is not Rachels genetic mother. Genetically, Jennifer and Rachel are twin sisters. This means that Rachels genetic parents are the same as Rachels genetic parents. Rachels genetic parents are in reality the two people that are traditionally referred to as her grandparents. Fanciful? (5)
-Could a child have two genetic mothers?
Technically it is possible to produce a fully healthy child through the fusion of two embryos from two different women. The eggs are harvested from both women and each fertilized using donated sperm from one single donor. The fertilized eggs are then incubated for the necessary period. After which the selected embryos from each of the two women are pushed together. They immediately stick to each other. From what was two embryos, there is now only one. While there is more clinical work to be done the resulting embryo shares two genetic mothers. Amazing! (6)
-Could a man become pregnant?
Is Male pregnancy possible? Probably yes . Is male pregnancy feasible? No, not at this time. Its not just a question of whether the baby lives, but whether the pregnant man himself survives the birth. The three ingredients that are essential for pregnancy are a fertilized egg, a hormonal environment to allow implantation and a living womb within which the embryo can grow and form a placenta. All of these occur naturally in a woman, but would have to be duplicated for a mans body. Presently, that duplication is a far reach into the future technology of cloning.
Science offers as proof, the birth of Baby Louise in 1978 which has shown that a womans eggs can be fertilized in vitro. Those eggs can then be inserted into a mans body through a tiny glass needle. That satisfies the first ingredient. The second ingredient is satisfied without new research. Doctors have already successfully stimulated the pregnancy environment in post menopausal women. With hormonal injections to stimulate the pregnancy environment, the implantation should likely take hold in a man in the same way that it does in a woman. That leaves the question of the living womb- the third and final ingredient. Again, science offers as proof, some abnormal pregnancies in which a womans abdomen acting as the womb have successfully resulted in live and healthy Cesarean births. Although many are dangerous to the mother and the fetus, some have occurred with positive results. While this kind of birth would represent a greater danger for men if spontaneous hemorrhaging occurred, the question remains. If a womans abdomen can act as a womb, why cant a mans?
The definitive answer(s) to the initial question are, Yes, male pregnancy is possible, but still, only through the help of a surrogate mother.. No, it is not likely to be tried by men or by clinicians who are asked to perform such a procedure for men. However, in our future, there will be males who will seek such a procedure and they will be accommodated. Think about that! (7)
The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that various public officials are proposing legislation to outlaw human cloning or at the very least impose restrictive limits on the research that will lead to cloning. To date, researchers fear that the US Congress could pass laws banning research on human cloning. A directive issued in 1997, by President Clinton to ban the use of federal funds for human cloning research suggests that an outright ban to continue the research and eventually the practice will be the next step taken by Congress. The directive not only bans the use of federal funds to public research companies, but also urges those who receive private funding to accept a voluntary five- year moratorium on such research, at least while the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) reviews the issues and prepares a report. (8)
The directive was published in April of 1997, the Commission promised a report by the end of May in that same year. The NBAC examined ethical, legal and religious implications of cloning before urging a moratorium on human cloning. By Spring of 1999, Skeptic Magazine reported The Commission concludes that at this time it is morally unacceptable for anyone in the public or private sector, whether in a research or clinical setting; to attempt to create a child using somatic nuclear transfer cloning. (9) Somatic cell nuclear transfer was the technology used to clone Dolly, the sheep. Scientists feel that the same technology could be used to clone humans.
Ethical concerns against cloning as outlined by the Commission:
Catholic teaching refers to human cloning as something out of the norm. The cloning of human beings would be a violation of the natural moral law. The Catholic Medical Association CMA is opposed to any attempts at human cloning and finds it -contrary to the method of procreation designed by God. (11)
We can not know what harm or benefits cloning will bring to our human existence, as we know it today. We do know however, that much of what we fear in this technology will continue to play a role in our changing evolution.
To conclude this segment, I quote from Lee Silver, For human beings, though, its not just a question of whether cloning could work, its a question of whether it could work safely. A basic principle of medical ethics is that doctors should not perform any procedure on human subjects if the risk of harm is greater than the benefit that might be achieved. (12) Physicians would be obligated to refrain from practicing cloning technology unless they are sure that it causes no greater dangers than that which is associated with natural conception. As it stands now, can they be sure if they are banned from practicing?
Read and discuss the opening section on cloning Take an informal survey to find out if students understand what cloning is and how it happens.. Now find what individuals feel about cloning. Are they for or against it, based on their present knowledge? Why ?
Engage students in some dialog about cloning as a personal choice. Allow them to speak freely as to whether anyone would choose cloning for any reason. Guided questions should be general at this point. Follow the discussion with some focus on first impression ideas of what might be considered beneficial or harmful about cloning.
Read aloud with the class Been There; Done That and invite the students to ask questions about the reading. If there are no questions, pose some. For example, Is Baby Louise any less human that you are? Would a child born through a surrogate be loved differently than an adopted child? Would a cloned child necessarily be treated differently from either of these?
Choose one of the questions from Things that make your Brain Itch Engage students in critical thinking exercises to ease them into the idea of evaluating their personal positions through writing about any one of the topics that is suggested by the questions. Challenge or charm them to use their critical and creative thinking strengths to write and present a persuasive essay, or to create an original poem, short story, one- act play, song or any other idea that might demonstrate their understanding of the concepts and allow for some learning challenge at the same time.
One of the most significant changes within the twentieth century and early decades of the twenty-first century is the development of our ability to manipulate life through genetic engineering. Science promises to achieve in overnight laboratories the process of natural selection which would otherwise take millions of years in nature. Research predicts that one day geneticists may be able to remove traits from human beings that are considered undesirable and replace them with more acceptable ones. However, that is in our future. Currently, the battle is to be able to freely and legally complete the research that will eventually lead to this kind of genetic engineering of humans.
At this point, members of this society, like those in Canada and Europe raise questions in protest of the ethics and the morality of such practices. Should the US follow other countries and allow this protest to lead to an outright ban or stiff regulations against genetic engineering ? An outright ban not only limits potential medical breakthroughs, but limits personal freedoms as well.
Humans have some 100,000 genes which serve as instructions to the body. What will it mean to know the complete human genome, asks Eric Lander of MIT s Whithead Institute. According to Lander, some of the genes identified are linked to diseases like cancers of the breast and colon, Alzheimers, Glaucoma and Parkinsons. Figuring out how the genes work promises to lead to prevention and or advanced treatment.(14)
Genes are located in the nucleus of every living cell. Each gene is a molecule of a chemical called DNA which acts like a master code to determine characteristics of the individual. When the living cells reproduce themselves, by dividing in two the DNA is reproduced exactly. Genetic engineering brings about a specific mutation (changes in the structure of a DNA molecule) in a specific gene. Once scientists determine the gene or groups of genes that contain the characteristics that they want to change, a computer maps the exact structure of the DNA molecule, locating the part that must be removed and replaced by new coding material that will change the information that the gene sends to the body. (15)
Some biotech companies are concentrating their efforts in the field of tissue engineering and fabrication of human organs. While others are turning their attention to unde rstanding how genes switch on and off and interact with their environment to cause genetic diseases. Still others have dedicated their energies to creating artificial human chromosomes, a development that could lead to the customized design of genetic traits in the sex cells, or in the embryonic cells just after conception.
Scientists are projecting that by the year 2011, they would have learned how to program the development of cells that could be transplanted into humans. However, it will take many more years before theyre are able to fool cells to develop into an entirely new organ like a liver or a kidney.
Researchers hope to move beyond the notion of transplants and into the era of fabrication, and are already well along in research to fabricate human heart valves, breasts, ears, cartilage, noses and other body parts. (16) Following the wisdom of Robert Langer and Dr. Joseph P. Vicanti, leaders in this field, Rifkin agrees that The idea is to make organs, rather than simply move them. Researchers in this field predict that by the year 2020 ninety-five percent of human body parts will be replaceable with laboratory grown organs.
One example of how this extraordinary technology would work may be told in the story of a ten year old boy into whom a laboratory- grown human organ was expected to be transplanted in 1998. At Bostons Childrens Hospital, director of tissue engineering at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Anthony Atala grew a human bladder in a glass jar. Atalas research team seeded a plastic scaffolding made to represent the three dimensional shape of a bladder with bladder cells from the patient. The human cells grew over the frame in the laboratory jar and was expected to be transplanted- making it the first tissue-engineered organ ever transplanted into a human. What should happen with this new technology is -eventually the scaffolding over which the cells had been growing will be destroyed by the patients own enzymes, leaving a fully functioning human bladder. (17)
While all of these things might possibly result from genetic engineering, many believe that there is great danger in man altering the order of nature. Altering genes in humans could have dramatically different results than those discovered in lab mice. The human body tends to reject anything foreign, like a virus carrying a corrective gene into a diseased cell. (18) So far, experimental treatment has been confined to treating life -threatening diseases and altering somatic cells which pass on altered genes to future generations. Where should lines of human intervention be drawn?
We likely cant count on parents-to-be who wish to choose physical characteristics, personalities or talents of their children. It is now possible to screen thousands of genes within individual embryos. Scientists are developing ways in which to remove or replace genes in individuals so as to change their individual attributes. With enough money the perspective parent will be able to include whatever traits he/ she desires in the offspring Genetic screening also makes it possible to determine what diseases or kind of illness that the child is predisposed to.
There is an even greater concern about the misuse of genetic screening. There have been reported cases of discrimination in providing health insurance coverage to people who are known to be predisposed to life-threatening diseases. There are also reported cases of employee discrimination. One such case involved a social worker who was abruptly dismissed from her job when her employee learned that she was predisposed to Huntingtons disease (19)
What does this kind of genetic tracking mean to students in various learning environments? Too often the child who is diagnosed as having a genetic disorder will likely receive less attention and support from teachers who feel that the child will not learn anyway. The handicapped or special need students might well be dismissed totally. For these students the discrimination has social implications far beyond their school years into their adult years, where their genetic profiles will follow them. They will become twice victimized by their genetic
Segregating individuals by their genetic makeup represents a fundamental shift in the exercise of power.(20) Institutions who hold such information also hold a weapon of absolute power. There is also concern about further dividing society into genetically superior and genetically inferior groups. Those who can afford to program superior traits into their fetuses at conception stand to gain biological, social and economic advantages.
from Omnis Future Medical Almanac (partial listing)
When using the information given in this timeline, you will need to check various sources for actual dates of events- given that these dates represent projections and many of them have already occurred. The editors of this book advise its users that they are looking at basic research and ongoing clinical trials, along with the fantasies of medicines brightest minds and dreams that will change the face of health care. The book presents medical sciences cutting edge, but also takes a look at what the future will likely bring. (21)
1986 first human gene therapy trials for ADA and purine nucleaside phosphorylase deficiency begin
. 1987-1990 Genetically engineered drugs to control hemophilia, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, stress and certain cancers were FDA approved.
1991-1995 Scientists map all fifty cancer genes
1996-2000 Major outline of human gene map is known.
Prenatal genetic screen tests become available for home use. 2001-2010 First human gene therapy traits for Alzheimers and other diseases resulting from defects in more than one gene begin.
2011-2100 Gene transfer therapy for all hereditary diseases becomes standard practice. All hereditary or genetically linked diseases are eradicated.
Introduce the idea of altering ones physical appearance by asking the children which of the following procedures they may consider having done now or in the future through cosmetic surgery? Would anyone have your teeth straightened? Would you go for a hair transplant or permanent weave? Would you consider breast enlargement or reduction?
Explain to the students that these are minor flaws that many consider changing as a way of improving their overall appearances. But there are those that interfere with the quality of ones life and may be necessary in order to save a life or at least provide a greater quality of life.
Engage students in dialog by asking the following questions. If you were born with club feet, would you want to have them surgically corrected? If you were born with a congenital heart disease would you have that corrected?
Now tell them that scientists are working on ways to detect and correct those abnormalities before children are born through genetic engineering.
Have students set up notes for working definitions of the terms found in Vocabulary segment .
Next read the segment entitled Genetic Engineering and its possibilities Handout 1. Allow sufficient time for students to record definitions as they find them in the reading.
Discuss the reading by raising questions that relate to students understanding of the information.. For example ask, From your reading, can you describe the process by which genes are genetically altered ?
Next have students discuss and make notes outlining some of the ways in which genetic engineering technology is intended to be used. After taking notes and some discussion, ask students to express their ideas of what it might mean to be a human being in a world where babies are genetically designed and customized in the womb.
What are some of the positive and negative results of people being identified, stereotyped and discriminated against on the basis of their genotype?
Take some time to survey the Timeline- Handout 2. Open a discussion into the possibilities of these things occurring and some of their implications.
Ask students to elaborate on the following ideas by looking at the positive and negative implications. Will the ability to eliminate certain diseases ensure that there is no sickness or death from poor health? What could it mean to have a life expectancy of 125 or more years?
Find out if students agree with those who support research on human embryos as a step toward eventually having the ability to eliminate certain diseases or are they more inclined to follow the position taken by those who feel that human experimentation is morally unacceptable even if it does provide knowledge for eliminating certain diseases from the body?
Close the lesson segment by posing these questions . What are the risks we take in attempting to design a more perfect human? How much perfection is enough to satisfy whomever seeks improvement through science rather than nature?
The struggle to balance the protection of individual rights, social interests and technology against the founding principles and values declared in the Constitution may take on a whole new meaning in the face of this new biomedical technology. What may appear at first glance as a violation of our right to privacy, may in effect be a protection of those rights for individuals who are not among the rich and the powerful.
What is a citizens constitutional right to privacy as it relates to reproduction choices? Although not stated in the constitution as a fundamental guarantee, the Supreme Court has declared that two types of privacy are protected by the Constitution One type of privacy is interpreted to include the right to make personal decisions. The other covers the right to keep personal information private. It implies freedom to decide without government interference with that choice.
Human Cloning is a reproductive choice and a person has a legal right to choose it as such. If the current ban against human cloning continues it will directly affect the person who chooses cloning as a way of creating a family. That would be a direct interference from government. It would be a violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth amendment
What are the past decisions handed down by the courts in privacy cases? Earlier Court rulings allowed women the right to choose abortion in Roe v. Wade. Would the same be extended in the choice to create a life The Court has had to acknowledge in vitro fertilization (IVF) as an alternative form of creating life. Would cloning fall into that same category? Yes, it should. It is an alternative form of reproduction, but it is different in that the cloned individual is a genetic duplicate of a previously existing genotype.
Lori Andrews offers this differentiation. Cloning is sufficiently distinct from traditional reproduction or alternative reproduction. It is not a process of genetic mix, but of genetic duplication. It is not reproduction, but a sort of recycling, where a single individuals genome is made into someone else.(22) Will the wisdom of the Court and the logic of their reasoning rulings mentioned above serve as basis for allowing the practice of cloning? Will the idea of cloning require a broader interpretation of the Constitution?
If indeed, cloning is considered a form of reproduction, the Court has been clear on the matter of fundamental rights to privacy in Roe v. Wade (1973) and consequent rulings which followed. Will the Court now reverse itself by upholding a ban on human cloning practice? By doing so is the government violating an individuals right to choose if, when and how to beget a child?
By banning human cloning is government protecting privacy rights in that it stops human experimentation and protects the rights of those who wish not to be cloned? People have few legal rights to their body tissues and genes once they leave the bodies. Under current law, it would be easy for someone to get DNA from a hair follicle, or in a medical setting without permission and there is no legal recourse for reclaiming it or its resulting use.
The right to privacy, simply interpreted is a reasonable expectation to be able to choose. Do scientists expect government should interfere with their ability to make new discoveries and pass them on to the general public? Do infertile couples who wish to have themselves cloned expect government to decide that they should not be cloned?
Do pharmaceutical companies expect to be prohibited from developing new drugs to treat known diseases now that their new genome research has led to a better understanding of what causes the body to break down? If scientists have a better understanding of how genes can be manipulated to send different signal to the body, do they expect that government will deny them the right to do so because of a legal ban?
The government s invasion into the privacy of individuals may be best illustrated in the area of genetic testing. The genetic surveillance and tracking represented by the federally funded Human Genome Project poses enormous threats to our basic rights to privacy and self determination,(23) If everyone is tested and categorized, the potential for misuse of that information is so great that it screams for legislation to prevent genetic discrimination.
This discrimination is very different from what many in this country already experience. What is different are the mechanisms through which it is applied. It is virtually impossible to escape your genetic profile in the workplace, in seeking health care or insurance coverage, in schools and through bills passed by legislators to test a variety of groups, namely prisoners, welfare recipients immigrants and others who are powerless to stop it.
Genetic technologies reflect the power differentials in our society; they do not equally benefit all segments, nor are they meant to.(24) Thus these technologies become social and political weapons in an already divided society.
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00.03.07: Human Cloning, Genetic Engineering and Privacy
Posted: at 9:45 pm
My argument is that genetic engineering, and specifically human genetic engineering is a good thing.
I believe that human genetic engineering (HGE) can benefit human kind in an endless number of ways including but not limited to :
*Increased lifespan *Decreasing disease *Making humans happier *Making humans stronger *Making humans smarter *Making humans better looking (Yes, even this can be done and is good)
I will let my opponent make the first actual argument and I will then, after my opponent has made their argument, go into much further detail on my own argument as well as addressing theirs. So, I leave it to any challenger to argue against my initial statements and my general argument.
Con, I await your response. 🙂
Increased lifespan-If HGE did increase human lifespan why would us as a society want that? Thousands of people are brain dead and have you ever heard of this? http://en.wikipedia.org…
Making humans happier-I know many kids who are made fun of for being gay,black, Mormon etc.So if I was a clone (or altered) I am certain I would be made fun of way more than anyone else.Also kids have trouble when they are adopted, and can not find their family.If I was a clone, and I didn’t even have a family?I would have no real family and thus no reason to be happy.
Better looking- hhttp://gorillasafariadventure.com… http://alpha-mag.blogspot.com… One is real……
At first, since as everything is economic, the rich people would be the first to try and use HGH (as they use HRT today more commonly). How would we know it works? We would know that it would work through scientific testing, lab testing, finally human testing. Etc. It would be a long process. Eventually everyone would be able to afford it as technology improves.
The upper class having exclusive rights to these technologies would last a few decades at most. Perhaps less.
I do not support cruelty to animals, but animal testing happens and it can prove very beneficial to humanity. Would I sacrifice some animals for humanity getting smarter and better off in the long run? Sure. Why? Because, the smarter we get the more we will understand animals and, in the long run, treat them better…
Overpopulation is a problem today purely because we, as humans, aren’t smart enough to control ourselves and our reproductive abilities. We can’t manage ourselves. With increased intelligence, this would no longer be a problem. Science has proven that higher I.Q. and education leads to less children, and having children later.
Would a child be picked on for being altered? I can’t imagine how they would, since no one would even have to know. Moreover, in time, nearly everyone will have genetic alterations so it won’t matter. I, for one, do not believe that we should refrain from using genetic therapy to cure depression, make people happy, make them live longer, healthier, etc. all because there is some chance some one might be made fun of somewhere. It seems nonsensical to me.
I don’t know why you are bringing cloning into the issue. I never mentioned cloning.
So from what you said I really can not see how you do not support animal cruelty? Its better off in the “long run” for animals? Do you Eccedustin not understand an animal?That they are an organism just like US.Non human animals experience sensations just like we do. They too are strong,intelligent, and evolutionary. They to are capable of adaptation, and can not adapt in a cage just so they can be experimented on because we are to ignorant to solve our problems that WE created. Not them. How will pain and suffering benefit animals? The more HGE develops the more tests need to be done. Proving that more animals will be needed thus proving that “in the long run” is not true and you support animal cruelty. It seems you are a typical speciest willing to hurt anything just so you can “look better” I will be waiting for your stuck up response
Any technology that comes up will come up through the basic process of capitalism. If you look at technologies in the past, all of them were exclusively for the rich. This, however, does not last long. Cars, Computers, Refrigerators, etc. We’ve all got them now, even the lower class for the most part. The same would be true of Genetic engineering. The technology would, over time, become available to EVERYONE. So I do not believe that the argument is relevant or valid.
I understand and agree with you that animals, beside us humans, have feelings and emotions. That is not the issue here. The issue is that most animal cruelty is not the result of experiments from scientists but rather from ignorant people who abuse animals because they are to stupid to know any better. With increased intelligence, people will know about animals more and be empathetic towards them more. So, in the long run, it would greatly benefit animal kind.
If you look at it another way, Humans could easily become vegetarians with genetic engineering. Removing any possible side effects from purely Vegetarian diets (if there are any) would result in even less animal cruelty.
The thing about cars, computers, refrigerators, you can mass produce them. Can you train as many HGE surgeons as X-ray technicians in the next fifty years when we barely understand it right now? Logically lower class, non high school graduates can make cars, but not perform gene transplants. Which means that a whole new branch of schooling is going to be created just to support that. Chemo therapy can cost up to 30,000 dollars for just one session? Not many even lower upper class can afford that. Insurance wouldn’t even cover it like it does for most things.
Those ignorant people are the scientists. Please watch that video.
Do you want that happening just so you can look better? Just so that we can solve the problems WE created? I really have no idea what you are talking about when you say “increased intelligence about animals.” Native Americans or the first hieroglyphics were of animals. In ancient Mesopotamia they treated animals way better than we do now? Or the Native Americans doing ceremony’s for all the animals they killed? Did they not understand animals? Have we just become more ignorant? In your last statement you said “that animals, beside us humans, have feelings and emotions.” So that means animals are almost like us? Really I see no logic in “increasing our intelligence” will help us treat animals better. We will want more,build more, need more, kill more because we want to know how to make money!
Vegetarians live approximately seven years longer than people on a vegetarian diet. So no we would find ways to make meat better for us and thus eat more animals.
I think that HGH won’t require surgeons as much as a single injection in the future. We would be able to mass produce that as well, or better, as we can mass produce anti viruses, etc.
Historically ALL technology has become more available and cheaper as time goes by. Chemo therapy will beocme cheaper and more available in the future as well.
Your arguments are nonsensical. You say that because Genetic engineering might be excluded from the lower classes at first, it is a bad idea to produce it? That is equal to saying that because Cancer therapy will be excluded from the lower classes at first, we shouldn’t pursue it. It is a bad argument pure and simple.
Most of the genetic problems that exist today are not problems that “we created”. Aging, disease, death, all have always existed. Moreover, even if “we” are the problem then genetic engineering could be the solution to that as well since it could change who “we” are inherently.
Did the native Americans or Mesopotamians treat animals better than we do today? Of course not. Native Americans ate Dogs, horses, etc. commonly. And in no culture in the past did they ever have all of the laws protecting animals that we have today. How many animal rights laws did Mesopotamians have?
I argue that higher intelligence would equal better treatment of animals. I argue this because most of the animal abuse that we see today is done by uneducated ignorant people.
Certainly, there are examples of scientists mistreating animals. However, on average, Scientists are very careful to reduce suffering when they do experiments on animals.
I personally do not believe that animal testing should be done unless totally necessary.
Also, with a higher I.Q. we could easily find ways to “produce” meat without even killing animals. It is all possible, we just can’t do it yet.
I have searched the whole HGE databases and none of these places say that HGE would be single injection? Does altering your genotype into a new phenotype sound like an easy thing? That you could get at your local Walgreen’s, and walk out with a batman sticker?
No I think that things always start in the upper class, and work there way down like you have said numerous times. But, with HGE like I said it would create a bigger poverty gap. You said it would take a few decades to get to the middle class, well a generation is twenty five years. So three generations could pass before they had access to it while there richer peers look socially better, were smarter, so they could have a huggeeee advantage over the other classes. The rich would create bigger Corporatocracy’s thus creating more $20 an hour jobs for all the non-hge now grown up humans to have.
Do you think HGE would stop wars? Do you think that changing my phenotype will stop me and everyone from being greedy? Are you serious? That if some fat guy gets a new phenotype he will say “screw McDonalds, lets eat SALAD!”
I have taken an Native American culture class in college and we spent four weeks, yes… Four weeks talking about animals and spiritual dances, ceremony’s the would do for ONE bison? When was the last time you danced around and blessed, and ate every single piece of a whole animal? Nothing was wasting with them. Saying native Americans didn’t treat animals well? They treated them better because they cherished, and loved them like brothers.
1. My opponent continues to attack me, claiming I am an “elitist” and that I support cruelty to animals. Neither are true. I am not an elitist because I do not support elitism. Rather, it is true elitists will benefit short term from (ALL) technological advances, this is no argument against them. In the long term they will be available to us all. Also, animal experiments go on and will go on regardless. Should people supporting drug research be labeled as supporting animal cruelty?
2. I do not know how or when or in what form HGE will take. I am not a futurist. All I am arguing is that it will invariably be a good thing, in the long run.
3. It is absurd to claim that only rich people will receive genetic therapy. There will no doubt be funds for people with diseases to get it, etc. Also, I’m sure people would be more than willing to improve their entire genome if it involves taking out a loan or something. It would be an investment.
4. Yes, Our genes determine so many things including how we interact with other people. Aggression, intelligence, empathy, rational thinking, etc. Even non genetic factors would quickly be changed once genes are altered.
5. So the Native Americans danced around and worshiped the Bison. This doesn’t mean they didn’t kill it. And the Bison holds a special distinction in Native American culture, especially certain areas. They didn’t treat all animals like that either.
In summary, Genetic therapy would be a great thing for human kind. All of the bad things we humans have in us, aggression, stupidity, disease, illness, lack of empathy, etc. all have strong genetic components. Sure, Nurture has a lot to do with it but if we take care of the nature part then we are half way there. Moreover, If you closely examine them, all of Con’s arguments fall apart. Con is arguing AGAINST scientific progress for empty and pointless reasons.
2. Then how can you even debate on this topic or make a reference to that in a debate. You are just bull shitting apparently.
3. Yes like all those funds that help all the people with cancer. If those “funds” were exist there wouldn’t be people at home with stage four cancer when they could at least receive treatment.
4. So you are willing to go against nature (or god if you believe in a higher power) to be able to become more empathetic? Is that hard to love? Are you that big of a savage that you can’t control yourself or can’t learn things for yourself?
5. Yes, all animals that were killed were used fully. Of course if they killed a rat they didn’t dance around it but, they would use it all.
In summary pro has the more civil debate here. I understand that we all want to be perfect, but why not take the cards we were dealt, and succeed. Cheaters never prosper.
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Online Debate: Human genetic engineering is a good thing …
Posted: September 30, 2015 at 7:44 pm
In Vivo : Selected Stories of Genetic Engineering (1996)- Robert Wyrod This experimental documentary examines the frontiers of human genetic engineering. It explores the ethical terrain of the e… | more… In Vivo : Selected Stories of Genetic Engineering (1996)- Robert Wyrod This experimental documentary examines the frontiers of human genetic engineering. It explores the ethical terrain of the emerging field of human gene therapy research and includes original interviews with the leading scientists working in this area. Director: Robert Wyrod Producer: Robert Wyrod Keywords: genetic; engineering; gene therapy; DNA; experimental; clone; molecular Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org Creative Commons license: Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Human genetic engineering is the genetic engineering of humans by modifying the genotype of the unborn individual to control what traits it will possess when born. Humans do not need gene therapy to survive, though it may prove helpful to treat certain diseases. Special gene modification research has been carried out on groups such as the ‘bubble children’ – those whose immune systems do not protect them from the bacteria and irritants all around them. The first clinical trial of human gene therapy began in 1990, but (as of 2008) is still experimental. Other forms of human genetic engineering are still theoretical, or restricted to fiction stories. Recombinant DNA research is usually performed to study gene expression and various human diseases. Some drastic demonstrations of gene modification have been made with mice and other animals, however; testing on humans is generally considered off-limits. In some instances changes are usually brought about by removing genetic material from one organism and transferring them into another species. There are two main types of genetic engineering. Somatic modifications involve adding genes to cells other than egg or sperm cells. For example, if a person had a disease caused by a defective gene, a healthy gene could be added to the affected cells to treat the disorder. The distinguishing characteristic of somatic engineering is that it is non-inheritable, e.g. the new gene would not be passed to the recipients offspring. Germline engineering would change genes in eggs, sperm, or very early embryos. This type of engineering is inheritable, meaning that the modified genes would appear not only in any children that resulted from the procedure, but in all succeeding generations. This application is by far the more consequential as it could open the door to the perpetual and irreversible alteration of the human species. There are two techniques researchers are currently experimenting with: Viruses are good at injecting their DNA payload into human cells and reproducing it. By adding the desired DNA to the DNA of non-pathogenic virus, a small amount of virus will reproduce the desired DNA and spread it all over the body. Manufacture large quantities of DNA, and somehow package it to induce the target cells to accept it, either as an addition to one of the original 23 chromosomes, or as an independent 24th human artificial chromosome. Human genetic engineering means that some part of the genes or DNA of a person are changed. It is possible that through engineering, people could be given more arms, bigger brains or other structural alterations if desired. A more common type of change would be finding the genes of extraordinary people, such as those for intelligence, stamina, longevity, and incorporating those in embryos. Human genetic engineering holds the promise of being able to cure diseases and increasing the immunity of people to viruses. An example of such a disease is cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects lungs and other organs. Researchers are currently trying to map out and assign genes to different body functions or disease. When the genes or DNA sequence responsible for a disease is found, theoretically gene therapy should be able to fix the disease and eliminate it permanently. However, with the complexity of interaction between genes and gene triggers, gene research is currently in its infancy. Computer modeling and expression technology could be used in the future to create people from scratch. This would work by taking existing DNA knowledge and inserting DNA of “superior” body expressions from people, such as a bigger heart, stronger muscles, etc and implanting this within an egg to be inserted into a female womb. The visual modeling of this process may be very much like the videogame Spore, where people are able to manipulate the physical attributes of creatures and then “release them” in the digital world. | less…
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Bioethics Of Human Genetic Engineering – Documentary Video …
Posted: August 29, 2015 at 5:45 am
The human body is not perfect. Some are created with inherent faults and others break down before their time. Science has the potential to make good these problems by altering how humans are made. This is genetic engineering, and this article looks at the pros and cons of the technology in humans
This is part one of a two-part series. Here I will look at a definition of genetic engineering and the pros of human genetic engineering. In part two the cons and the ethics of human genetic engineering are discussed.
Before weighing up the pros and cons of genetic engineering in humans, it’s worth taking the time to understand just what is meant by the idea. Simply put, it’s a way of manipulating our genes in such a way as to make our bodies better. This alteration of a genome could take place in the sperm and egg cells. This is known as germline gene therapy and would alter the traits that a child is born with. The changes would be inheritable and passed down through the generations. It is currently illegal in many countries.
The other way to change our genome is to swap our bad genes for good ones – in cells other than the sex cells. This is known as somatic cell gene therapy. This is where a functioning gene could be fired into our bodies on a viral vector to carry out the functions that a faulty gene is unable to. This technology is permitted, though it has enjoyed a very limited success rate so far (largely because it is technically very difficult). Nonetheless, it still holds out a great deal of promise.
There are many potential advantages to being able to alter the cells in our bodies genetically.
To make disease a thing of the past
Most people on the planet die of disease or have family members that do. Very few of us will just pop up to bed one night and gently close our eyes for the last time. Our genomes are not as robust as we would like them to be and genetic mutations either directly cause a disease such as Cystic fibrosis, or they contribute to it greatly i.e. Alzheimer’s. Or in the case of some conditions such as the heart disease Cardiomyopathy, genetic mutations can make our bodies more susceptible to attack from viruses or our own immune system. If the full benefits of gene therapy are ever realised we can replace the dud genes with correctly functioning copies.
To extend life spans
Having enjoyed life, most of us want to cling on to it for as long as possible. The genetic engineering of humans has the potential to greatly increase our life spans. Some estimates reckon that 100-150 years could be the norm. Of course gene therapy for a fatal condition will increase the lifespan of the patient but we’re also talking about genetic modifications of healthy people to give them a longer life. Once we fully understand the genetics of ageing it may be possible to slow down or reverse some of the cellular mechanisms that lead to our decline – for example by preventing telomeres at the ends of chromosomes from shortening. Telomere shortening is known to contribute to cell senescence.
The knowledge gained by working out genetic solutions for the above could help with the design of better pharmaceutical products that are able to target specifically genetic mutations in each individual.
So What’s the Downside?
As deliriously exciting as some people believe genetic engineering to be – there are several downsides and ethical dilemmas. Click the link to read the cons.
This two part series explores some of the pros and cons of human genetic engineering.
Read more here:
Posted: August 27, 2015 at 11:47 pm
Photo by: Gernot Krautberger
Genetic engineering is any process by which genetic material (the building blocks of heredity) is changed in such a way as to make possible the production of new substances or new functions. As an example, biologists have now learned how to transplant the gene that produces light in a firefly into tobacco plants. The function of that genethe production of lighthas been added to the normal list of functions of the tobacco plants.
Genetic engineering became possible only when scientists had discovered exactly what is a gene. Prior to the 1950s, the term gene was used to stand for a unit by which some genetic characteristic was transmitted from one generation to the next. Biologists talked about a “gene” for hair color, although they really had no idea as to what that gene was or what it looked like.
That situation changed dramatically in 1953. The English chemist Francis Crick (1916 ) and the American biologist James Watson (1928 ) determined a chemical explanation for a gene. Crick and Watson discovered the chemical structure for large, complex molecules that occur in the nuclei of all living cells, known as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
DNA molecules, Crick and Watson announced, are very long chains or units made of a combination of a simple sugar and a phosphate group.
Amino acid: An organic compound from which proteins are made.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): A large, complex chemical compound that makes up the core of a chromosome and whose segments consist of genes.
Gene: A segment of a DNA molecule that acts as a kind of code for the production of some specific protein. Genes carry instructions for the formation, functioning, and transmission of specific traits from one generation to another.
Gene splicing: The process by which genes are cut apart and put back together to provide them with some new function.
Genetic code: A set of nitrogen base combinations that act as a code for the production of certain amino acids.
Host cell: The cell into which a new gene is transplanted in genetic engineering.
Human gene therapy (HGT): The application of genetic engineering technology for the cure of genetic disorders.
Nitrogen base: An organic compound consisting of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen arranged in a ring that plays an essential role in the structure of DNA molecules.
Plasmid: A circular form of DNA often used as a vector in genetic engineering.
Protein: Large molecules that are essential to the structure and functioning of all living cells.
Recombinant DNA research (rDNA research): Genetic engineering; a technique for adding new instructions to the DNA of a host cell by combining genes from two different sources.
Vector: An organism or chemical used to transport a gene into a new host cell.
Attached at regular positions along this chain are nitrogen bases. Nitrogen bases are chemical compounds in which carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen atoms are arranged in rings. Four nitrogen bases occur in DNA: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T).
The way in which nitrogen bases are arranged along a DNA molecule represents a kind of genetic code for the cell in which the molecule occurs. For example, the sequence of nitrogen bases T-T-C tells a cell that it should make the amino acid known as lysine. The sequence C-C-G, on the other hand, instructs the cell to make the amino acid glycine.
A very long chain (tens of thousands of atoms long) of nitrogen bases tells a cell, therefore, what amino acids to make and in what sequence to arrange those amino acids. A very long chain of amino acids arranged in a particular sequence, however, is what we know of as a protein. The specific sequence of nitrogen bases, then, tells a cell what kind of protein it should be making.
Furthermore, the instructions stored in a DNA molecule can easily be passed on from generation to generation. When a cell divides (reproduces), the DNA within it also divides. Each DNA molecule separates into two identical parts. Each of the two parts then makes a copy of itself. Where once only one DNA molecule existed, now two identical copies of the molecule exist. That process is repeated over and over again, every time a cell divides.
This discovery gave a chemical meaning to the term gene. According to our current understanding, a specific arrangement of nitrogen bases forms a code, or set of instructions, for a cell to make a specific protein. The protein might be the protein needed to make red hair, blue eyes, or wrinkled skin (to simplify the possibilities). The sequence of bases, then, holds the code for some genetic trait.
The Crick-Watson discovery opened up unlimited possibilities for biologists. If genes are chemical compounds, then they can be manipulated just as any other kind of chemical compound can be manipulated. Since DNA molecules are very large and complex, the actual task of manipulation may be difficult. However, the principles involved in working with DNA molecule genes is no different than the research principles with which all chemists are familiar.
For example, chemists know how to cut molecules apart and put them back together again. When these procedures are used with DNA molecules, the process is known as gene splicing. Gene splicing is a process that takes place naturally all the time in cells. In the process of division or repair, cells routinely have to take genes apart, rearrange their components, and put them back together again.
Scientists have discovered that cells contain certain kinds of enzymes that take DNA molecules apart and put them back together again. Endonucleases, for example, are enzymes that cut a DNA molecule at some given location. Exonucleases are enzymes that remove one nitrogen base unit at a time. Ligases are enzymes that join two DNA segments together.
It should be obvious that enzymes such as these can be used by scientists as submicroscopic scissors and glue with which one or more DNA molecules can be cut apart, rearranged, and the put back together again.
Genetic engineering requires three elements: the gene to be transferred, a host cell into which the gene is inserted, and a vector to bring about the transfer. Suppose, for example, that one wishes to insert the gene for making insulin into a bacterial cell. Insulin is a naturally occurring protein made by cells in the pancreas in humans and other mammals. It controls the breakdown of complex carbohydrates in the blood to glucose. People whose bodies have lost the ability to make insulin become diabetic.
The first step in the genetic engineering procedure is to obtain a copy of the insulin gene. This copy can be obtained from a natural source
(from the DNA in a pancreas, for example), or it can be manufactured in a laboratory.
The second step in the process is to insert the insulin gene into the vector. The term vector means any organism that will carry the gene from one place to another. The most common vector used in genetic engineering is a circular form of DNA known as a plasmid. Endonucleases are used to cut the plasmid molecule open at almost any point chosen by the scientist. Once the plasmid has been cut open, it is mixed with the insulin gene and a ligase enzyme. The goal is to make sure that the insulin gene attaches itself to the plasmid before the plasmid is reclosed.
The hybrid plasmid now contains the gene whose product (insulin) is desired. It can be inserted into the host cell, where it begins to function just like all the other genes that make up the cell. In this case, however, in addition to normal bacterial functions, the host cell also is producing insulin, as directed by the inserted gene.
Notice that the process described here involves nothing more in concept than taking DNA molecules apart and recombining them in a different arrangement. For that reason, the process also is referred to as recombinant DNA (rDNA) research.
The possible applications of genetic engineering are virtually limitless. For example, rDNA methods now enable scientists to produce a number of products that were previously available only in limited quantities. Until the 1980s, for example, the only source of insulin available to diabetics was from animals slaughtered for meat and other purposes. The supply was never large enough to provide a sufficient amount of affordable insulin for everyone who needed insulin. In 1982, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved insulin produced by genetically altered organisms, the first such product to become available.
Since 1982, the number of additional products produced by rDNA techniques has greatly expanded. Among these products are human growth hormone (for children whose growth is insufficient because of genetic problems), alpha interferon (for the treatment of diseases), interleukin-2 (for the treatment of cancer), factor VIII (needed by hemophiliacs for blood clotting), erythropoietin (for the treatment of anemia), tumor necrosis factor (for the treatment of tumors), and tissue plasminogen activator (used to dissolve blood clots).
Genetic engineering also promises a revolution in agriculture. Recombinant DNA techniques enable scientists to produce plants that are resistant to herbicides and freezing temperatures, that will take longer to ripen, and that will manufacture a resistance to pests, among other characteristics.
Today, scientists have tested more than two dozen kinds of plants engineered to have special properties such as these. As with other aspects of genetic engineering, however, these advances have been controversial. The development of herbicide-resistant plants, for example, means that farmers are likely to use still larger quantities of herbicides. This trend is not a particularly desirable one, according to some critics. How sure can we be, others ask, about the risk to the environment posed by the introduction of “unnatural,” engineered plants?
The science and art of animal breeding also are likely to be revolutionized by genetic engineering. For example, scientists have discovered that a gene in domestic cows is responsible for the production of milk. Genetic engineering makes it possible to extract that gene from cows who produce large volumes of milk or to manufacture that gene in the laboratory. The gene can then be inserted into other cows whose milk production may increase by dramatic amounts because of the presence of the new gene.
One of the most exciting potential applications of genetic engineering involves the treatment of human genetic disorders. Medical scientists know of about 3,000 disorders that arise because of errors in an individual’s DNA. Conditions such as sickle-cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s chorea, cystic fibrosis, and Lesch-Nyhan syndrome result from the loss, mistaken insertion, or change of a single nitrogen base in a DNA molecule. Genetic engineering enables scientists to provide individuals lacking a particular gene with correct copies of that gene. If and when the correct gene begins functioning, the genetic disorder may be cured. This procedure is known as human gene therapy (HGT).
The first approved trials of HGT with human patients began in the 1980s. One of the most promising sets of experiments involved a condition known as severe combined immune deficiency (SCID). Individuals with SCID have no immune systems. Exposure to microorganisms that would be harmless to the vast majority of people will result in diseases that can cause death. Untreated infants born with SCID who are not kept in a sterile bubble become ill within months and die before their first birthday.
In 1990, a research team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) attempted HGT on a four-year-old SCID patient. The patient received about one billion cells containing a genetically engineered copy of the gene that his body lacked. Another instance of HGT was a procedure, approved in 1993 by NIH, to introduce normal genes into the airways of cystic fibrosis patients. By the end of the 1990s, according to the NIH, more than 390 gene therapy studies had been initiated. These studies involved more than 4,000 people and more than a dozen medical conditions.
In 2000, doctors in France claimed they had used HGT to treat three babies who suffered from SCID. Just ten months after being treated, the babies exhibited normal immune systems. This marked the first time that HGT had unequivocally succeeded.
Controversy remains. Human gene therapy is the source of great controversy among scientists and nonscientists alike. Few individuals maintain that the HGT should not be used. If we could wipe out sickle cell anemia, most agree, we should certainly make the effort. But HGT raises other concerns. If scientists can cure genetic disorders, they can also design individuals in accordance with the cultural and intellectual fashions of the day. Will humans know when to say “enough” to the changes that can be made with HGT?
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Despite recent successes, most results in HGT since the first experiment was conducted in 1990 have been largely disappointing. And in 1999, research into HGT was dealt a blow when an eighteen-year-old from Tucson, Arizona, died in an experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. The young man, who suffered from a metabolic disorder, had volunteered for an experiment to test gene therapy for babies with a fatal form of that disease. Citing the spirit of this young man, researchers remain optimistic, vowing to continue work into the possible lifesaving opportunities offered by HGT.
The commercial potential of genetically engineered products was not lost on entrepreneurs in the 1970s. A few individuals believed that the impact of rDNA on American technology would be comparable to that of computers in the 1950s. In many cases, the first genetic engineering firms were founded by scientists involved in fundamental research. The American biologist Herbert Boyer, for example, teamed up with the venture capitalist Robert Swanson in 1976 to form Genentech (Genetic Engineering Technology). Other early firms like Cetus, Biogen, and Genex were formed similarly through the collaboration of scientists and businesspeople.
The structure of genetic engineering (biotechnology) firms has, in fact, long been a source of controversy. Many observers have questioned the right of a scientist to make a personal profit by running companies that benefit from research that had been carried out at publicly funded universities. The early 1990s saw the creation of formalized working relations between universities, individual researchers, and the corporations founded by these individuals. Despite these arrangements, however, many ethical issues remain unresolved.
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Posted: at 11:47 pm
Human genetic engineering is one of the most controversial aspects of a science, which is itself highly controversial, and it is still very much in its infancy. There have been a few isolated cases where an illness has been successfully cured by the use of genetic therapy, but there have also been other cases where patients have contracted diseases such as leukemia through experimentation with this type of therapy. At this stage it is impossible to say exactly what the future will hold, or exactly what the consequences of these developments will be.
So far, the only successes which the method has are in treating conditions relating to the human immune system. This is an obvious application of the technology, as the condition is caused purely by genetic factors. By replacing a gene which gives the patient a proclivity towards the disease with a healthy one a cure can be effected. This is more than just theory, as the numbers of cases where this has been successfully carried out is now into double figures, and is constantly increasing. The challenge lies in overcoming the potentially catastrophic side effects which can occur if the treatment does not work.
One of the most controversial of all applications of this technology is in allowing infertile mothers to conceive. This is done by using the eggs from a different mother, leaving the child with the genetic blueprint inherited from three people. This will then be passed on through future generations, leading to untold potential complications. It is still far too early to judge the potential consequences of the use of this type of genetic technology, but if there are any negative side effects they are likely to be far reaching and extremely damaging.
There have been many arguments put forward concerning human genetic engineering, some strongly in favor and some equally strongly against. The potential is there for diseases caused by genetics to be eliminated completely, and this is there area in which fewest dissenting voices will be heard. The use of genetics purely to overcome fertility is far more controversial, especially when you consider the permanent effect that this has on all future generations of that family. There are also many dissenters against the possibility of parents deciding features of their children using an advanced form of this technology, which cannot be used yet but which may be perfectly possible in the future.
If this technology is left unchecked it will definitely have far reaching consequences. There is no doubt that wealthy families would take advantage of such technology to try to give their children every advantage in their future life, and there could be several possible outcomes of this. One would be a rise in productivity and creativity which would penetrate through society, raising the standard of society for everyone and creating more opportunities. It is also possible that poor families who could not afford this technology would be left even further adrift, leading to sharp increases in crime rates, social disorder, and economic chaos.
Even though strong opinions are held on both sides of the argument, the truth is that it is far too early to know for sure exactly what is involved with human genetic engineering. There are some philosophical and moral arguments which will prove exceedingly difficult to resolve one way or another, but there are potential consequences which cannot possibly be known until more research has been carried out. The arguments over this technology are certain to rage for a great many years to come, and it is unlikely there will ever be universal agreement on human genetic engineering.
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Posted: at 11:47 pm
Human Nature on Collision Course with Genetic Engineering
Human genetic engineering could be the next major battleground for the global conservation movement, according to a series of reports in the latest issue of World Watch magazine, published by the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization. While previous struggles have involved protecting ecosystems and human societies from the unpredicted consequences of new technologies, this fight over high-risk applications of human genetic engineering is a struggle over who will decide what it means to be human.
Many countries have already banned reproductive cloning, and the U.N. is working on a global treaty to ban it, but even more powerful and much more dangerous are the related technologies to modify the genes we pass on to our children, says Ed Ayres, Editor of World Watch magazine. The contributors to this special issue call on the U.N. and national governments to ban the technology known as inheritable genetic modification.
Many uses of human genetic technology could be beneficial to society, but as political scientist Francis Fukuyama writes in the magazine, our understanding of the relationship between our genes and whatever improvements we might seek for our children (and their descendants) is dangerously deficient. Fukuyama warns that the victim of a failed experiment will not be an ecosystem, but a human child whose parents, seeking to give her greater intelligence, will saddle her with a greater propensity for cancer, or prolonged debility in old age, or some other completely unanticipated side effect that may emerge only after the experimenters have passed from the scene.
Human genetic engineering has ramifications that reach far beyond the life of a single child. Several contributors highlight the disastrous results of the last serious effort to engineer genetic perfection. In the early part of the 20th century, scientists and politicians in the United States relied on the alleged science of eugenics to justify the forced sterilization of tens of thousands of people who were judged to be feebleminded, mentally defective, or epileptics. Hitler passed his own sterilization law soon after taking office in 1933, heading down the path toward the Holocaust. The U.S. biotechnology industry-which dominates the global industry-has become an increasingly powerful economic and political force, with revenues growing fivefold between 1989 ($5 billion) and 2000 ($25 billion). Aided by the equally rapid revolution in computing, laboratories that once took two months to sequence 150 nucleotides can now process over 30 million in a day, and at a small fraction of the earlier cost. The number of patents pending for human DNA sequences has gone from 4,000 in 1991, to 500,000 in 1998, to several million today.
We are publishing this special issue because we dont want to lose the opportunity to decide openly and democratically how this rapidly developing technology is used, says Ayres. This isnt a fight about saving whales, or the last rain forests, or even the health of people living today. The question is whether we can save ourselves from ourselves, to know and respect what we do not know, and to put the breaks on potentially dangerous forms of human genetic engineering.
Excerpts from the authors of the Beyond Cloning issue of World Watch
About World Watch magazine: This bimonthly magazine is published by the Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization, based in Washington, DC. Launched in 1988, the magazine has won the Alternative Press Award for investigative journalism, the Project Censored Award, and a number of Utne Reader awards. Recent editions have featured articles on the imminent disappearance of more than half of the worlds languages, airport sprawl, and the rapid growth of organic farming. Please visit: http://www.worldwatch.org/mag/.
The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization that works for an environmentally sustainable and socially just society, in which the needs of all people are met without threatening the health of the natural environment or the well-being of future generations. By providing compelling, accessible, and fact-based analysis of critical global issues, Worldwatch informs people around the world about the complex interactions between people, nature, and economies. Worldwatch focuses on the underlying causes of and practical solutions to the worlds problems, in order to inspire people to demand new policies, investment patterns, and lifestyle choices. For more information, visit: http://www.worldwatch.org.
Disclaimer: Please note that the statement by eight leaders of environmental NGOs, which appears on page 25 of the magazine, represents the views of the individuals quoted, not necessarily of the organizations they lead.
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Posted: August 19, 2015 at 8:45 am
A Slippery Slope? Ethics of Human Genetic Engineering
To say that genetic engineering has attracted some controversy would be an understatement. There are many cries that scientists are ‘playing God’ and that it will lead to a two-tier society – the genetically haves and the have-nots. But is this any different to the cries of horror and fears of Frankenstein’s monster that greeted Louise Brown, the first child to be born by IVF treatment? There was great uproar in the late 1970’s but IVF is now a common, if expensive, fertility treatment. And there aren’t any monsters stalking the Earth.
Having said that, genetic engineering does hold the potential that parents could (if the technology worked) assemble their kids genetically, to be smarter, to be more athletic or have a particular hair or eye colour. Though it’s rather fanciful to suggest that intelligence could be improved by the substitution of a gene, it may be found that there are several genes that are more commonly expressed in the genomes of intelligent people than those with more limited intellectual capacity. And parents might want to engineer an embryo to house a greater number of these genes. It is this genetic engineering of humans that so frightens people, that we could somehow design the human race. Though some people point out other potential benefits. What if it turned out that there were sets of genes that were commonly expressed in criminals – could we tackle crime by weeding out those genes?
The technology is nowhere near there yet, but a tiny number of parents undergoing IVF have selected their embryos to be free from genetic mutations that have blighted generations of their family. In the UK in January 2009 a mother gave birth to a girl whose embryo had been selected to be free from a genetic form of breast cancer. Some see this as a slippery slope towards a eugenic future, others view it as a valuable use of genetic engineering to prevent disease from striking someone down.
Society will decide how it uses this technology, and it is for governments to weigh up the pros and cons of genetic engineering in humans to see what may be carried out and what should be illegal. They will be prompted by public understanding, desire and concern. It therefore behoves all of us to understand what scientists are trying to accomplish and what they are not trying to do. We must all become better informed, to equip ourselves with more information and to know the difference between science fiction and science fact.
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Posted: at 8:45 am
1. Is human genetic engineering safe and effective?
With present techniques it is clearly unsafe: the techniques of inserting genes can disrupt other genes, with harmful consequences for the person and all his/her descendants. We do not know enough about how gene work to ensure that an inserted gene will work as desired. Future generations cannot consent to such risks. The chance that interventions will be effective is unknown. However, the technologies are improving constantly and may make human genetic engineering (HGE) feasible within five years.
No, it is not. Advocates argue that it is a general solution to the problem of genetic diseases and is superior to somatic gene therapy, since it could permanently eliminate the risk of inherited disease within a family. However, there are only a few very rare cases where HGE is the only option for producing a healthy child. Couples can choose not to have children, to adopt a child, or to use donor eggs or sperm. If it is consistent with their values, they can also use prenatal and pre-implantation genetic testing to avoid genetic disease and have a child that is 100% genetically related. Given this, it is clear that the real market for HGE is in ‘enhancement’ of appearance, height, athletic ability, intelligence, etc.
No, it is not, although Lee Silver and others like him very much want you to believe that it is. In a democratic society people agree on what rules they wish to live under. By 1998 twenty-seven industrial democracies had agreed to ban human cloning and germ line manipulation. In the U.S., the state of Michigan has made all forms of human cloning illegal. There is no reason we cannot choose to forgo these technologies, both domestically and as part of a global compact. It is often said that banning the use of a technology will not prevent someone from developing it elsewhere. This may be true, although the number of people competent to develop cloning and human genetic engineering is small. But even though the technology may be developed, we do not have to permit its use to become respectable and widespread.
No, we have the right to choose the science that we want and to define our own vision of progress. We should reject science which is not in the public interest. Proscribing the most dangerous techno-eugenic applications will allow us to proceed with greater confidence in developing the many potentially beneficial uses of genetic research for human society.
People do have the right to have children if they are biologically capable, but they do not have any ‘right’ to use cloning, or genetic engineering. Rights don’t exist in a vacuum; they are socially negotiated within a context of fundamental values. The question of access to particular technologies is a matter of public policy and depends on the social consequences of allowing that access. For example, people are not allowed access to nuclear technology, or dangerous pathogens and drugs, simply because they have the money to pay for them.
Traditionally, we see human beings as inviolable, and as endowed with rights: they must be accepted as they are. Human genetic engineering overthrows that basic conception, degrading human subjects into objects, to be designed according parents’ whim. Accepting such a change would have consequences both for individual humans and for society at large which we can barely imagine. Obvious consequences would be a disruption of parents’ unconditional love for children. Cloning and HGE represent an unprecedented intent to determine and control a child’s life trajectory: for the child, it would undermine their sense of free will and of their achievements. These concerns are what many people mean when they say that we should not play God with our children.
The social consequences of the use of cloning and HGE in our society would be disastrous. Parents would tend to engineer children to conform to social norms, with regard to physical ability, appearance and aptitudes, even though many of those social norms are inherently oppressive. For example, disabled people have often expressed fears that free-market eugenics would reduce society’s tolerance for those genetic impairments. If genes pre-disposing people to homosexuality are discovered, it is certain that many people would attempt to engineer these out of their offspring. A free-market techno-eugenics could also easily have the disastrous consequences spelled out in Lee Silver’s Re-making Eden. Since access to such expensive technology would be on the basis of ability to pay, we could see the emergence of biologically as well as financially advantaged ruling elites.
The environmental movement has recognised how, in Western societies over the last few hundred years, humans have tried to control and dominate nature, with the resultant environmental crisis which we currently face. Genetic engineering of plants and animals gives us the power to dominate nature in a new and more powerful way than ever before, which is why it has caused so much concern in environmental movements. Techno-eugenics extends the drive to control nature to the nature of human beings, threatening ultimately to make the human species, like other species, the object of the manipulative control of technocratic elites. It is obvious that if we cannot prevent this, we have little chance of winning the struggle to protect the environment. The environmental movement is the main guardian of the non-exploitative vision of the relation between humans and the rest of nature. Realising that such a relationship may soon be imposed upon ourselves, and our children, the environmental movement must take the lead in alerting society to the danger that it faces.