At the writing of this article, the world was wrapped in collective mourning for the passing of Britain’s little Charlie Gard. Laid waste by the ravages of a rare genetic disorder, the toddler’s case caused a whirlwind of media attention in his final days, as his desperate parents fought their country’s court ruling to discontinue his life support. Adding fuel to the fire was an unsubstantiated offer of treatment from a US doctor, a glimmer of hope that dissipated almost immediately. The truth was that there was never hope. Charlie suffered from Alpers-Huttenlocher Syndrome, an extremely rare condition in which mitochondrial DNA cannot replicate and ultimately causes brain damage and liver failure without exception. His tiny innocence, like that of so many sick children, makes the injustice of his condition unbearable.
Charlie’s case presents us with an ethical dilemma. The intent of medicine since its inception has been to cure, to seek out the causes of disease and eliminate them, and improve the quality of life, especially the lives of children. As modern research increasingly centers around molecular biology, having already identified many specific genes that cause disease, it is inevitable that we will begin to seek to intervene in Nature’s faults. If the in vitro technology had yet been available to replace Charlie’s mitochondria with healthy ones, his parents would have done so in a heartbeat. In fact, that very technology does exist in its infancy in medical research, cultivating the promise to rescue other children from Charlie’s fate, a promise that begs the question; Although seemingly miraculous, could the breakthroughs of human genetic engineering have a dark side, and where do we draw the line?
Genetic engineering in humans may be able to save millions of lives by finally treating hereditary diseases such as cancer and cystic fibrosis. However genetic engineering will be abused by many perfectionists who want to design their babies right down to the colour of their eyes. I personally think it is a bad idea.
All the Yes points:
- The question of safety
- What is the ethical impact of gene manipulation?
- Wouldn’t genetic engineering alter the human genome?
All the No points:
One of many bad things in genetic engineering is cloning. Cloning is a process where we make same creatures from its DNA. On one side, you have a mathematical badness of cloning. Dolly was a sheep created by a process of cloning. It has created in 1996. It died in 2003 because of many circumstances. To make a good product of cloning you need to test a really huge number of units. So, it means that if you want to create “healthy” Dolly, you need to test a million of “unhealthy” Dollies. And there is the chanse that you will make some unit in 2050 maybe. That is not good because you cannot sacrifice a millon for just one!
On other side, there is an ethical measures. Just imagine that you create a million of Dollies. Then imagine that you create a million of people. Definitely, that is not ethical. Thus, cloning devalues the value of human life.
Cloning, in Dolly’s case, was to realise a previously inaccessable idea. It was an excercise in popular science to try to create a story that would capture people’s imagination and to concretely show that which had been only expressible in theories, equations and petri dish’s. It was not a test for the efficacy of cloning as a means of production.
As for the ethical considerations which would come into play were human cloning to happen… They would, of course need to be thouroghly discussed and considered. But for the life of me, I cannot forsee a reasonable set of circumstance’s which would lead to human cloning being benificial for any purpose. If someone were to clone one person a million times it would indeed raise ethical issues… So do a lot of potentialities that have next to no chance of happening.
Genetic modification does have the potential to cause harm, as does any tool that has ever been used. This particular tool has the potential to alter so many lives and so many future lives for the better, that i find it extremely difficult to understand, in any solid sense, how there could be an argument against. Ones that i can think of such as “design a child” or patenting wheats that are resistant to round up and owned by monsanto, who own the wheat, or religion etc are problems with the society not the tool. If the tool CAN be used to better lives, then it should, if it doesn’t then the SOCIETY not the tool is wrong.
Genetically engineering food will expand how much we get, how it comes out and when it does. If we GE our food, we can grow more in a short amount of time and a lot of it. We can GE animals to get leaner meat , GE crops to make them grow before winter hits and make sure all the food can withstand any random harsh weather and still come out good.We may even be able to grow them in diffrent climates and places.
The question of safety
One of the main concerns with genetic engineering is the potential to permanently alter what is known as the “germline”, or the fundamental base of genes that are passed on to future generations. Genetic modification is not yet well understood. Simple changes in one area of a chromosome can have unintended consequences later on. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, were created starting in the 1970’s to enhance agricultural production. Decades later, GMOs have experienced a reversal in popularity, with opponents citing issues with environmental impact, economic manipulation, and some evidence of an adverse effect on human metabolism. Since genetic alterations are permanent, there may never be a way to determine the long term safety of such modifications in the human population, nor any recourse to correct unforeseen consequences.
On the other hand, proponents of genetic research defend engineering as a misunderstood pathway to medical progress. Chromosomal frequencies are a dynamic thing, changing naturally from one generation to the next. Individuals host a variety of genetic mutations, some of which are inconsequential, some that are harmful. For advocates, the ability to remove and replace defective genes with healthy ones is a tremendous medical tool for the prevention of disease, similar in achievement to the development of penicillin or the oral polio vaccine. GMOs, despite any shortcomings, have empowered agriculturalists to produce robust foods, resist crop diseases, and make more nutrition available to the developing world. Since the same benefits might be reaped by modifying human genetics with similar intentions, the risks may be no greater than any other gene manipulation.The question of safety, given medicine’s current rigorously regulated R&D methods, may be minor compared to the quality of life human genetic engineering could offer.
What is the ethical impact of gene manipulation?
The biggest dilemma that human genetic engineering faces is an ethical one. There is no doubt that a sophisticated and patented method of gene replacement will become available in the near future. The question, of course, is whether there is any ethical pathway to market such a product, even under the guise of medical advancement. The whole process is fraught with philosophical issues. It is well known that the road to Hell is often paved good intentions, and the omnipotent power wielded by genetic control could lead us well beyond medicine and into the realm of Eugenics. If wealthy parents can access the correction of defective genes, what’s to prevent them obtaining desirable genes as well? People could request eye color, personality, or, with the recent discoveries in ancestral DNA, the addition or removal of specific ethnic chromosomes. Genetic engineering could completely redefine the meaning of life, especially from a religious perspective. In addition, since such technology would almost surely be exclusive to the top economic tiers of the developed world, a genetic rift would occur in subsequent generations, causing deep divisions between socioeconomic classes.
To the scientists who have dedicated their lives to molecular biology, however, such insinuations would be a deep insult. It could be argued that all medical advancements, not just the modification of genes, are dependent on removing the variables of the natural world, and that all are altruistic efforts that have dramatically lowered mortality rates and elevated the human experience. For parents like Charlie’s, nothing could seem less ethical than withholding technology that would have prevented his tragedy. The industries of healthcare, especially where research is concerned, are heavily policed, both by collegiate peers and supervising agencies such as the FDA. There is far less opportunity for corruption than the media would suggest. If a good level of faith can be maintained between the public and the scientific community, there should be no reason that fear should obstruct the advancement of molecular technologies.
Wouldn’t genetic engineering alter the human genome?
An irrefutable fact of gene editing is that it changes things for good. This is not a terribly new concept. Humans have been contributing to and remodeling the natural selection process since the predawn of civilization. We have altered crops, bred animals, and removed threatening species from the planet. We have burned forests and rerouted waterways to suit our needs, forever altering landscapes and the species that rely on them. We have manufactured marriages by design and denied others, altering the direction of genetics with every generation. At our worst we have enslaved, oppressed, and murdered en masse. And at our best, we have defied the forces of nature and turned the fate of millions of children worldwide.
That said, genetic power transcends any level of control we have ever imposed on nature before. Genetic alterations, whether natural or otherwise, are often a one-way road. Special attention must be paid to the fact that the entire future of the human genome (all the heritable traits found in all human chromosomes) will be irreversibly changed by artificial gene modification. The level of responsibility imposed by such an undertaking is for nothing less than the future of the human race. Regardless of its potential for miracles, human genetic engineering deserves to be approached in the most conservative way. If there is doubt about the safety, morality, or sustainability of it, it should be avoided or severely limited until those uncertainties are resolved.
With genetic engineering and some more research man kind could finally cure many genetic diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Cystic Fibrosis, Haemophilia, colour blindness, some cancers, and down syndrome. Thus improving the quality of life of many and even the holy grail of medicine, immortality.
It is true that Genetic Engineering can cure may diseases but it can lead to new ones as well. How do we know for sure that mixing DNA to cure one thing won’t lead to another problem? We may start diseases never before heard of or known. We dont know
What GE can also do to our health. It can start infections or someyhing because the body is not used to being Genetically altered.
Could human gene editing, all reservations aside, be a miraculous cure-all?
In development for the last thirty-plus years has been a revolutionary gene editing tool called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). Based upon the ability to zero in on a specific gene sequence, CRISPR technology allows scientists to easily “snip” unwanted genes from an embryo before cell replication takes off running, completely changing the baby’s fate. The power of this tool is extraordinary. In disease prevention, this is the ultimate game-changer. Something so powerful is immediately compelling. Some people are horrified at the God-like control that CRISPR suggests, and religious groups are especially concerned about the potential consequences. Others believe that this is the technology of the future for which we’ve all been waiting – the one that can perfect food, eliminate both genetic and vector-mediated disease, like Tay-Sachs or Zika virus, or even finally cure cancer. Indeed, CRISPR may have reached the common denominator of most of humanity’s greatest biological enemies. It is the one treatment method that could potentially guarantee a healthy baby for Charlie’s heartbroken parents. If it passes the final stages of research, CRISPR will almost certainly set the course for the way we understand and develop treatments for disease in the future.