An experimental technique but could it be the window to curing life threatening or incurable disease. Gene therapy may in the future be alternative to drug or surgical intervention. By inserting a gene into the DNA coding of an embryo, doctors may be able to cure genetic diseases which a mutated gene being replaced by a new gene without the mutation. The process of replacing the gene is known as knocking out or inactivating the mutated gene with the new gene (Department of Health & Human Services, 2017).
There are to paths that genetic engineering and the route it goes will mainly surround decisions made by a few scientists and the rich or people who are in a position of power. One of these paths may make life easier for many people and could substantially decrease the risk of being born with a life threatening or life-shortening genetic disease. I that sense if I had to ask any parent if they had a choice to prevent their child from acquiring a life threatening disease or that gene therapy could make risk of them developing the disease 0%, every parent that you ask would opt for the latter option. It comes down to our humanity, in the fact that we do not want to see another person suffering, especially not a loved one in this case your own child.
The other route that genetic engineering could go, can become a very dark path filled with dodgy deals in a dark alley way for personal benefit or for dare I say it warfare or control of other populations. Being able to single out any gene of the human DNA strain and change it, to have that sort of power of what a human looks like, how a human develops, their ability to portray a certain emotion more than another. What gives us the right to do that? To decide how someone looks and in a sense how they feel. As humans we try to control every variable, we are insecure in the fact that we are unable to control certain things. In my opinion element of chance and variability makes us what we are it beautiful in a sense that we are different and that nobody is the same as the person next to them. To think that gene therapy will only be used to decide what colour hair our children have and what features they have, I think we would be very naïve. If humans could have the ability to change the makeup of their off spring they would take every opportunity to make their offspring bigger, faster and stronger and more intelligent. Every parent would want their child to be the best and have fewer challenges in life.
In addition if such genetic changes were possible would the government be able to create a group of people who can be trained for warfare, creating a group of perfect soldiers. Who show less human emotion, care less but are able to do anything they are told to do. Surely their genes could be made be easily influenced and easily controlled. A super soldier that does what he is told, with no real moral compass, a scary thought. People are obsessed with control and they would do anything to get it.
Like most of the great discoveries in history this will have negative and positive connotations on the world as we know it. 1954 the year the first successful organ transplant was done, fast forward to present day there are 118 000 people on the transplant list in America (UNOS, 2015). With so many people waiting for organs, waiting for an opportunity to live a normal life without pain and suffering. In 2015, only 30 970 legal organ transplants were performed. With almost a 120 000 people waiting for an organ transplant, only one-third of people were able to receive the organ which they needed. With so many people unable to get the transplant they so desperately need, this leaves many people looking for alternative options based on their desperation to live. Stats show that there are over 10 000 black market organ transplants occur every year (Haqqi, 2017). The black market trade includes the use of illegally harvested organs, plays a major part in the world of human trafficking. There are so many desperate people looking for a cheaper option or a quicker option so that they can have a second chance at life, so that they can survive. This is why the black market for organs is so lucrative, because people want to live, they want to survive. Looking at organ transplant as a whole there were 40 970 people who received an organ transplant in the US. However 1 in every 4 successful organ transplants were complete on the black market, this gives people a second chance at life. The origin of the organs are brutal they are linked to numerous other criminal activates, because the market for black market organs is so big people have taken to these criminal options. Such criminal activities include people losing their lives, people being killed to harvest their organs. It involves people being kidnapped, trafficked and exploited. It’s the dark side of organ transplants. A medical practice tainted with illegal practices, part of it has become a dark world but does this mean that organ transplant as a medical practice was a bad idea to start? On one hand yes, it terrible it is breaking families apart and driving a criminal underworld driven by money. On the other hand it has saved many lives over the years, given many people a second chance. Organ transplant has both negative and positive connotations on the world as we know it but we cannot say that organ transplant is something that we should have never perused, because of the dark side of its practice.
I see genetic modification that could follow the same road, a road rife with illegal dealings with people exploiting other people for profits to make money of doggy deals and stolen money. It will soon become a part of the criminal underworld once it introduced to humans. As it will initially be an expensive option for medical treatment it will generally only be affordable to the rich and famous, while the everyday man or the poor will be left without access to the new medical treatment which could save their life or the life of a loved one. This opens doors for corruption and exploitation or Doctors doing these procedures to make some money on the side, bypassing the system the rules and regulations and cutting corners to make as much profit as possible.
Again we have to ask ourselves do the pros outweigh the cons, will the positive effect of saving hundreds of thousands of people or millions of people outweigh the countless cases of the illegal dealings liked to this possible new form of medical treatment.
Genetic modification in plants and animals have been around for 30 000 years, humans have been able to controlling animals and plants for thousands of years. Breeding animals and plants for domestic or survival purposes. Process called ‘selective breeding’ and ‘artificial selection’ have been around for centuries, some of these process have led to the betterment of the human race. Genetically modified foods that were previously impossible for humans to eat as it had properties which would cause harm to the human body. These foods and extensive research into which foods help humans to live a healthier life style effectively improving our longevity and life span.
Modern Genetic Modification (GMO) made a major breakthrough in 1973 when the first genetically modified organism. Scientists transferred a gene by coding antibiotic resistance from a strain of bacteria into another strain of bacteria making the bacteria resistant. In 1974, the same procedure was introduced into the embryos of mice (Rangel, 2015). The future of GMO is allowing for easier modification of genetically engineered organisms and it may also allow for alterations to whole ecosystems to eradicate disease and modification of crop species making them more resistant to weather conditions or disease (Rangel, 2015).
More and more research is going into human genetic modification to eradicate genetically acquired diseases and it may also be used for genetic enhancements or alterations to human characteristics. However there are plenty of ethical considerations with regards to genetic modification in humans. Questions asked with regards to genetic modifications look at the possible new or unpredictable mutations which could cause further genetic diseases verses the positive effect of curing current genetic diseases with genetic modification. Human rights of an individual, the unborn child has no say in what their genetic coding changes include. Gene therapy is still illegal in the UK as the uncontrollable side of the therapy could be used to enhance the genetics of the human population which would cause an imbalance. Gene therapy may only be affordable in developed countries with free health car as it will save money in the long run as these patients will not have to be treated for chronic conditions (Yourgenome, 2015).
I have an issue with genetic therapy as a whole as we just do not know where is headed in the future. The human race do not have the best track record with regards to medical interventions and using them in an ethical manner. There is such a broad spectrum with regards to gene therapy and plenty of research yet to be done to understand the process of genetic modification in humans. There is one thing that I can possibly almost guarantee is that humans will take advantage of the system with regards to gene therapy and will try to make life better and easier for their children and there will be a dark side to gene therapy.
- Department of Health & Human Services (2017). Help Me Understand Genetics Gene Therapy. Genetic Home Reference. Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health Department of Health & Human Services.
- Haqqi, T. (2017). 10 Black Market Organ Trade and Trafficking Facts, Statistics, and Stories. Accessed online at: http://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/10-black-market-organ-trade-and-trafficking-facts-statistics-and-stories-534744/
- Rangel, G. (2015). From Corgis to Corn: A Brief Look at the Long History of GMO Technology. Genetically Modified Organisms and Our Food. [Blog post]. Retrieved at: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/from-corgis-to-corn-a-brief-look-at-the-long-history-of-gmo-technology/
- (2015). UNOS’ beginnings. History. United Network for Organ Sharing. Accessed online at: https://www.unos.org/transplantation/history/
- (2015). Is germline gene therapy ethical? [Blog post]. Retrieved at: http://www.yourgenome.org/debates/is-germline-gene-therapy-ethical