Genetic engineering in spite of being an exceedingly advanced technique fails to acquire universal acceptance throughout the globe. Numerous ethical concerns surface concerning the utilization of experimental animals. The modifications set up in the genes of living things are the principal concern of many people. Even though an extensive assortment of new products has been developed, a large segment of the community still is not ready to allow it. Conflicts also surface from people’s lack of knowledge in relation to this technology as well as their antagonistic attitude towards scientific innovation. Probably one of the best illustrations of genetic engineering is found in Robin Cook’s best seller novel, Mutation. Although the novel is a piece of science fiction, it contains a plot that relates to the ethical concerns of genetic engineering in human beings (Lange 91).
In the novel, Victor Frank the central character embeds an egg into his wife’s womb. This egg had been genetically engineered into chromosome six through an agent referred to as Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). This results into a mutation that causes the embryo to have extra neurons than the normal fetus. This gives the infant an extremely high IQ. The youngster grows into an extremely intelligent individual, and what transpires is a terrifying experience. Although the narrative is a work of science fiction, which would be thought by many as only possible in tales, man has managed to acquire several breakthroughs with human genetic engineering (100).
BACKGROUND ON HUMAN GENETIC ENGINEERING
The phrase genetic engineering was initially employed in Jack Williamson’s science fiction book, Dragon’s Island in 1951. With the breakthrough in mitochondrial DNA or Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) by Francis Crick and James Watson, this imaginary plot began developing into realism. Crick and Watson, with their research, could verify that DNA was the genetic substance that was transmitted generation to generation, with genetic data. The genetic information established every characteristic of an organism. The miniature, microscopic DNA encloses the entire the genetic information linked to the individual, such as eye color, the hair, height, skin tone, weight, EQ, IQ, disorders, and diseases among many other characteristics. This life blueprint is the most important constituent of genetic engineering.
Genetic engineering is executed through 5 steps namely:
- Isolation of the gene of interest.
- Implantation of the transfer vector into the genes.
- The vector is transmitted into the organism that requires modification.
- The organism’s cells are transformed.
- Finally, the selection of effectively genetically modified organisms (GMO) from the ones that may have failed in modification (Chakravarti 22).
This form of genetic engineering was initially applied to invent artificial, human insulin. The technology has gradually been utilized in a number of drugs and vaccines, which have proven beneficial to humanity. It has been employed to plants to fabricate genetically modified foods, with advanced resistance towards infections as well as, high dietetic values. With the innovation in technologies and key breakthroughs in regard to genetic engineering, scientists are to a greater extent working for governments and private companies in experimenting with human genes. The achievement in 2006 of the Human Genome Project, presented a major opportunity to medical organizations, to perform experiments as well as genetic tests utilizing genetic engineering (Lange 102).
Therapeutic Application of the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome project recommends mapping an individual’s genetic coding. A person’s mapped genome is contrasted with the previously read and mapped components of the Human Genome. Thus, doctors can hypothetically treat patients prior to the appearance of disease symptoms. This may be possible by identifying any deficiency in the person’s genome or through examining the individual’s family history. Any problems discovered in the family history would potentially result in sicknesses such as cancer, given that the progeny inherits genes from both parents. In reality, geneticists are currently able to discover genetic mutations in the DNA that initiate certain diseases. Consequently, scientists can discern any mismatches such as DNA molecules that do not bond perfectly, in the individual’s DNA. However, scientists are currently unable to cure mutations or mismatches found in the human genome (Chakravarti 23).
The Benefits and Uses of Genetic Engineering in Humans. There are some salient advantages of genetic engineering in humans such as:
- Human genetic engineering could assist in preventing incurable as well as, life-threatening diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, or HIV/AIDS. There are cases such as cardiomyopathy or vulnerability to viruses, which may be overcome through the use of genetic engineering.
- Improved drugs may be produced that are gene or disease-specific and attack the exact genetic mutation in a person, to assist in overcoming a disorder or disease.
- Numerous people desire to live longer and healthier lives or are simply terrified of death. It is feasible to raise the average life span of a person to 100 or 150 years. A healthy life, free from disorders and diseases may take longer to realize, but it does not seem impossible anymore.
- Persons who desire to appear young and sustain their beauty would benefit from genetic engineering since it is possible to reverse or slow down some cellular metabolism.
- Parents can decide the characteristics of their children, like eye color, high IQ, or skin tone among other features through the assistance of human genetic engineering (Collins 50).
Demerits of Human Genetic Engineering. Under the excuse of generating a cure for hereditary disorders and diseases, numerous researchers perform trials on genetically modifying human beings. This form of genetic engineering can lead to a predicament if:
- In search of producing children with no hereditary disorders or genetic deficiencies, humanity may end up creating superhumans.
- Human cloning would create unprecedented problems of duplicates of individuals, and this may lead to problems of unknown magnitude.
- The problem of female infanticide may be addressed through genetic engineering. Although this may be viewed by some people as an advantage, it may lead to serious repercussions in the world’s gender balance (55).
The benefits and demerits of human genetic engineering may be uncountable, but it is important for humanity to remember that it should never endeavor to ‘play God’. Genetic engineers have developed into contemporary alchemists, who are looking for the perfect elixir of life, to create the genetically modified, ideal human being. The potential for abuse of human genetic engineering is enough reason for prohibiting it completely, as some people argue that, the benefits do not merit the risks. It may also be argued that genetic modification of humans would transform humanity into products that should be designed, and perfected in order to be controlled. This would serve a Promethean ambition to recreate nature, as well as human nature, in order to serve diverse purposes and satisfy different desires.
Chakravarti, S. “The Future of Therapeutic Genetics.” Nature 49 (2009):22–23. Print.
Collins, T. “Mapping the Cancer’s Genome.” Scientific American 296 (2010): 50 -55. Print.
Lange, M. Mathematical & Statistical Processes for Genetic Analysis. New York: Springer, 2009. Print.
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