Genetically Modified Humans

In a world with imperfect and defective humans, society strives to become as perfect as the advances in the scientific world allow them to. Since the discovery of genetic engineering any organism can be modified as pleased with the desired traits chosen. Science has given man enough power to configure every human’s DNA, the genetic material that determines the makeup of all living cells (The American Heritage Science Dictionary, 2002). The miracle breakthrough of genetic engineering has opened up the possibilities for curing genetic deformations, producing better pharmaceuticals, reproductive technology, and countless other medical fields.

However, with the potential for genetically engineered humans come great risks and responsibilities. Whether or not genetic engineering should be used to modify human beings remains questionable by our spiritual, moral, ethical, and legal perspectives. Now that this technology is in our hands, we should use it solely for the well-being of our people and not to fool with the intended course of nature. The Process of Genetic Modification The method for the genetic modification of humans requires a series of steps starting with the isolation of the gene of interest.

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The gene segment is then amplified, to produce copies of it, using polymerase chain reaction or gel electrophoresis. In order for the chosen gene to work properly it must be associated with the appropriate genetic elements. This gene is constructed along with a promoter region and terminal region. The promoter region initiates the transcription of a certain gene while the terminal region ends transcription. A selectable marker gene is also needed to protect the cell from possible toxic chemicals and to identify the transformed gene. These are inserted into the cell’s plasmid.

Then the plasmid is multiplied and the cloned construct is recovered to prepare for injection. The construct is then transferred into the human’s tissue, usually fertilized eggs. The gene is expressed once it integrates into the recipient genome. Further generations then inherit the modified trait (FAO, 2003). Results of Genetic Modifications on Humans During the mid-1900’s, the world’s first genetically modified babies were born after a series of experiments lead by embryologist Jacques Cohen at the Institute of Reproductive Medicine (Michael Hanlon, 2001).

These experiments were an attempt to “rescue” the eggs of infertile women who had undergone unsuccessful Vitro Fertilization treatments. This new technique was called cytoplasmic transfer, a hybrid treatment between In Vitro Fertilization in its original form and donated oocytes. The genetic condition of these children has been monitored and they are reportedly healthy, with no serious health complications. The Benefits of Genetic Engineering Medical Treatments.

The most assuring benefit of genetic modification in humans is gene therapy; a medical treatment for the correction of genetic disorders by repairing or replacing the missing/defective genes for a normal gene. Imagine how many people in the world could live a normal life without disease to hold them back! Sickle Cell Anemia, Huntington’s disease Hemophilia, and Chronic Granulomatous Disorder are only a few examples of some diseases that have been successfully treated with gene therapy. A cure for these diseases could possibly be found by modifying the defective gene or replacing it for a normal, healthy one.

There are high hopes that gene therapy will eventually lead to the complete elimination of such genetic diseases and possibly pave the way for another type of gene therapy for non-genetic ones. Pharmaceuticals Genetic engineering technology in pharmaceutical products has come a long way in the past decade. This allows for pharmaceutical products that are better and much more effective than their predecessors. Some forms of GM (genetically modified) medicines have been acquired by cloning certain genes.

Interferon is an example of one genetically engineered pharmaceutical which is used to kill certain viruses and eliminate cancer cells. New medicines have been made by changing the genetic material of plant cells. Fertility Problems Another benefit of genetic engineering in the medical field is to help women who are infertile conceive offspring. Treatments such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) involving genetic modification of the cytoplasm of the mother’s cell have been successful in past attempts. Pregnant women have also had their fetuses screened in order to prepare for possible genetic defects.

Gene therapy could be used to treat a baby’s genetic defect(s) after it is born or even as an embryo. With genetic engineering many health problems could be prevented for our children. The Negative Side of Genetic Engineering Genetic Diversity? With the genetic engineering of humans, what will become of our genetic diversity? Our genetic diversity is what makes the human race so unique, but with genetic engineering “perfection” will be within reach. Organisms have undergone the process of natural selection which happens naturally.

With more variation, organisms become more suitable to the environments and allow for successful reproduction. Then again, if we were to use genetic engineering for purposes other than genetic defects, like to make our children blue-eyed, more intelligent, or stronger, for example, we would be interrupting the course of natural selection which was always intended to be. Discrimination Conflicts involving discrimination have always been present in our society, but with the misuse of genetic engineering we will eventually create another one.

Of course we would do anything to give our children the best start in life, but when we start controlling genes for their physical appearance, personalities, and intelligence we are not giving our children a fair chance in life. A form of discrimination, Eugenics, is when selective breeding is used to improve the human population by increasing the presence of the desirable traits. Eugenics were encouraged by the Nazis to form the “perfect race” and resulted in the deaths of millions of people who did not have the desirable traits.

We should not encourage this idea of discrimination to our children because men and women of all races, colors, and backgrounds are all equal and should be respected. Safety Risks Not all genetic engineering methods have been proven to be effective or safe. Some changes in the human germ line have resulted in side effects which caused unwanted mutations in the surrounding genes. The mutations have resulted into serious developmental problems, deformed children, and even death. The manipulation of stem cells, embryos, eggs, and sperm alone could change the development of the fetus which has turned out to be lethal in some cases.

If we are putting the fate of so many people at risk, we must develop better ways to determine the risks beforehand. Yes to Genetic Engineering Setting the Limits Genetic Modification has its pros and cons, but if it can be used with good intentions and for the well-being of our population we should embrace it, to a certain extent! We are experimenting with something we do not know enough about, therefore, we should be aware of the great responsibility that comes with this technology and the risks that come with it. We should not take advantage of this knowledge and use it wisely instead, taking the necessary precautions.

The genetic engineering of humans should only be used for the well-being of our population to treat or prevent genetic disorders. GE According To My Religious, Moral, and Ethical Beliefs The Catholic religion which I belong to, opposes genetic engineering but not all of it. Like I said, genetic engineering should be used only up to a certain extent. Speaking religiously, we should not play God by messing around imprudently (sometimes) with what he created and how he intended for us to function. The real difference is between therapy and enhancement; I believe therapy is good, but such enhancement is not.

Just like everything in life there are always limits and there should also be very strict boundaries for genetic engineering experiments. Morally and ethically, we should prevent coming to a point in genetic engineering where we try to create perfection because without diversity our world would be almost lifeless, everyone would be identical! Our differences are what have helped the human race survive, what we are all loved and cherished for as individuals, and what makes the world go round. It would be a big mistake to ruin the individuality of our human population.

Final Conclusion To Sum It Up. Genetic modification is a phenomenal technology that should be used sensibly and merely for the purpose of therapy or seeking cures for genetic disorders. This technology gives us the chance at a brighter future in the battle against various devastating diseases and more knowledge of the functions of the world we inhabit. With the benefits come the risks of losing our genetic diversity and the safety of our people, which would be like playing with fire. Despite the negatives, if we use genetic engineering cleverly and diligently we will be able to accomplish goals for the true benefit of humanity.

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