The debate on whether human genetic engineering should be researched and used as the main alternative solution to disease have been going on since the creation of the “human genetic engineering” phenomenon. The ethical question is clear: should money be invested in human genetic engineering and should we research it at all, even if it is formally criticized by all monotheistic religions? The ethical principles in conflict are beneficence (people with fatal diseases could be cured) and non-maleficence (undermines the will of God, according to religious groups and in addition, there is no guarantee of successful results).
My stance on this debated topic is that human genetic engineering should not be funded or researched, as there is no 100% guarantee that it will be successful, and in addition, I am a very religious person, and in my opinion, the body that a person has is a gift of God, and it should not be changed in any ways. However, there are still thousands of people with fatal diseases who have no hope for surviving, and human genetic engineering could serve as the only hope for them.
There are many sides that can be affected either positively or negatively if human genetic engineering is funded and researched, however, the major stakeholders are primarily the government of US and private companies who fund all the experiments, people with fatal diseases who hope for any type of cure. , and the science in general, because if human genetic engineering will be proven beneficial, it will be a catalyst for further innovations in science. The formal definition of genetic engineering given is “the directed alteration of genetic material by intervention in genetic processes”.
Stated in another way, it is a scientific alteration of the structure of genetic material in a living organism. There are many different methods in genetic engineering, but the goal of all the methods is to manipulate the genetic material (DNA) of the cells in a living organism in order to either change it hereditary traits or to produce biological products. Genetic engineering techniques have been experimented with in many different areas including in bacteria, naturally produced drugs, plants, livestock, and laboratory animals.
Much of the processes dealing with genetic engineering are still in the experimental stages. As a result of this, it is required that most genetically engineered products get approval from specific U. S. governmental agencies such as the FDA. Genetic engineering has only become possible and more understandable very recently. Since scientists have been able to map out most of the gene locations in DNA, they have discovered ways to manipulate the genes. It is a very serious and controversial matter because it raises many ethical, legal, and moral issues, especially in dealing with genetic engineering in human beings.
There are generally three methods used in the manipulation of human genes and they are cloning, somatic cell manipulation, and human germline manipulation. Very basically, cloning is creating exact copies of an organisms DNA and creating a new organism with this same DNA. The new organisms will be physically identical to the original organism. Somatic cell manipulation is simply injecting new genes into somatic cells in order to cure a disease such as hemophilia. Germline manipulation is altering the genes in sex cells that are passed onto offspring, so that the offspring will posses certain specific characteristics.
From the descriptions of these few processes, it can be seen why genetic engineering has become such a controversial issue. Genetic engineering deals with the very intricate, orderly, processes of human life. Genetics is so complex that it is extremely risky to be getting too far into the engineering without knowing the exact results of the actions. Unfortunately, experimentation is the only way to discover some of the outcomes. Some scientists argue that the medical benefits of genetic engineering could be so great, that the experimentation is worth it.
There is the possibility that cures to life-threatening diseases could be found through genetic engineering in somatic cell manipulation, for example. Others say that human life is the way it is because it was meant to be that way. Genetic engineering is tampering with something that was never meant to be changed. It is unfortunate and unfair that there are people who are born with diseases because of genetic disorder, but that cannot be helped. The potential repercussions of genetic engineering are far too large to even be experimenting with.
What harm could Genetic Engineering bring? The main potential harm of Genetic Engineering is associated with artificial horizontal gene transfer experimentation. Horizontal gene transfer occurs commonly in nature. Genes can be exchanged between different bio-species. But the frequency of these natural transfers is limited by the defense systems, i. e. immune systems, of each bio-species. The immune system serves to prevent invasion by harmful foreign genes, viruses, and so forth, so that the bio-species can maintain its characteristic traits and normal metabolism.
The Genetic Engineering method of artificial horizontal gene transfer works by penetrating or weakening the immune system and using virulent genes as delivery vehicles. That is, the gene to be transferred is combined with a virulent gene to effect penetration. This method allows harmful virulent genes, especially those with resistance to antibiotics, to become widespread in nature. Gene therapy, for the correction of defective human genes that cause certain genetic diseases, involves the intentional introduction of new genes into the body in an attempt to modify the genetic structure of the body.
It is based on a simplistic and flawed model of gene function which assumes a one-to-one correspondence between individual gene and individual function. Since horizontal interaction43 among genes has been demonstrated, introduction of a new gene can have unforeseen effects. Another problem, already mentioned, is the slippery slope that leads to the notion of designer genes. We are already on that slope with the experimental administration of genetically engineered growth hormone to healthy children, simply because they are shorter than average and their parents would like them to be taller. 4 A few years ago a biotech corporation applied to the European Patent Office for a patent on a so-called “pharm-woman”, the idea being to genetically engineer human females so that their breast-milk would contain specialized pharmaceuticals. Work is also on going to use genetic engineering to grow human breasts in the laboratory. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that not only would they be used for breast replacement needed due to cancer surgery, but also to foster a vigorous commercial demand by women in search of the “perfect” breasts.
A geneticist has recently proposed genetically engineering headless humans to be used for body parts. Some prominent geneticists have supported his idea. Since the birth of the duplicated sheep “Dolly,” genetic engineering (GE) has attracted attention from all levels of society. GE raises questions of religion, ethics, and ecology that are of great concern to many people. I would like to share a little of my understanding of GE, hoping that it will be helpful to everyone here. Several companies are working on developing pigs that have organs containing human genes in order to facilitate the use of the organs in humans.
The basic idea is something like this. You can have your own personal organ donor pig with your genes implanted. When one of your organs gives out, you can use the pigs. I believe that genetic engineering for humans would eventually destroy the human natural selection theory, that everyone brought into this world was untouched and born to be who ever they were suppose to be. But with genetic engineering, scientists would be able to change unborn children to make them for acceptable to the human world.
Everyone would be “fake,” and not be of God’s creation but the creation of somebody else. The entire world would be composed of humans that would not be themselves, but rather other people they wish to become. People would act like robots; they would try to be the best they can genetically rather then actually try to be the best by setting it as a goal. Genetic engineering would just cause nothing but bad things in the world. Human genetic engineering has already killed several human lives, the first one being Jesse Gelsinger, who died as a result of gene therapy at age of 18.
Jesse Gelsinger was the first person publicly identified as having died in a clinical trial for gene therapy. He was 18 years old. Gelsinger suffered from omithine transcarbamylas deficiency , an X-linked genetic disease of the liver, the symptoms of which include an inability to metabolize ammonia-a byproduct of protein breakdown. The disease is usually fatal at birth, but Gelsinger had not inherited the disease; in his case it was the result of a genetic mutation and as such was not as severe – some of his cells were normal which enabled him to survive on a restricted diet and special medications.
Gelsinger joined a clinical trial run by the University of Pennsylvania that aimed at developing a treatment for infants born with severe disease. On September 13, 1999, Gelsinger was injected with an adenoviral vector carrying a corrected gene to test the safety of the procedure. He died four days later, September 17, at 2:30 pm, apparently having suffered a massive immune response triggered by the use of the viral vector used to transport the gene into his cells, leading to multiple organ failure and brain death. However, there are people who don’t share my point of view.
They believe that there are many POSSIBLE (I emphasize possible, since it hasn’t been proven) benefits of human genetic engineering, and the most promising benefit of human genetic engineering being gene therapy. Gene therapy is the medical treatment of a disease by repairing or replacing defective genes or introducing therapeutic genes to fight the disease. Over the past ten years, certain autoimmune diseases and heart disease have been treated with gene therapy. Many diseases, such as Huntington’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and cystic fibrosis are caused by a defective gene.
The hope is that soon, through genetic engineering, a cure can be found for these diseases by either inserting a corrected gene, modifying the defective gene, or even performing genetic surgery. Eventually the hope is to completely eliminate certain genetic diseases as well as treat non-genetic diseases with an appropriate gene therapy. Another benefit of genetic engineering is the creation pharmaceutical products that are superior to their predecessors. These new pharmaceuticals are created through cloning certain genes.
Currently on the market are bio-engineered insulin (which was previously obtained from sheep or cows) and human growth hormone (which in the past was obtained from cadavers) as well as bio-engineered hormones and blood clotting factors. The hope in the future is to be able to create plants or fruits that contain a certain drug by manipulating their genes in the laboratory. Genetic engineering in all manners is highly controversial and there are very opposite extremes on the position that it should take in our world today.
There are those who very heavily promote and support genetic engineer and there are those who oppose it very strong and think it is too dangerous to be messing around with. There seems to be evidence both for and against genetic engineering. The greatest majority of the evidence seems to be against genetic engineering. Many of the experiments that have already taken place have not been very successful. Many people are wary of them because the long term consequences of the genetic engineering can not always be immediately seen. There have, though, been some successes and advances in knowledge concerning genetic engineering.
The reason for the weight of the evidence being against genetic engineering may also be a part of the fact that it is a very new technology and scientist have really only scratched the surface. Genetic engineering could play a very large role in the future of our society and it is a subject that should be heavily researched and considered carefully before it advances too far. Clearly, genetic engineering brings more harms than benefit. We should use various channels to influence the direction of research, oppose the cruel treatment of animals used in genetic experiments, and oppose the policy of not labeling genetic engineered food products.
However, care is needed in reading scientific reports. Many scientific reports in the United States have been exaggerated for the sake of competition. It is advisable to observe clearly before offering criticism. On the other hand, there is no need to worry that scientists might soon create a horde of freaks and monsters. The genetic mechanism is an extremely complex process. Genetic engineers will quickly realize their limitations. We still have enough time to avert potential disasters.