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Human Genetic Engineering


Human Genetic Engineering

Genetic technology harbors the potential to change the human species forever. It holds the promise of curing genetic diseases and increasing the immunity of people to viruses. It is speculated that genetic engineering could be used to change physical appearance, metabolism, and even improve mental faculties such as memory and intelligence.

In 1990 began the first gene therapy trials on humans on patients with SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency). The first gene therapy ‘success’ in SCID patients with a functional immune system was in 2000. When it was discovered that two of the ten patients in one of the trials had developed leukemia as a result of the insertion of the gene-carrying retrovirus near an oncogene, these trials were stopped. Four of the ten patients had developed leukemia in 2007. Currently, the focus is on correcting the gene without triggering an oncogene.

 

The only success of gene therapy has been trial treatments of SCID. Gene therapy has been able to restore the immune systems of at least 17 children with two forms (ADA-SCID and X-SCID) of the disorder since 1999. To allow infertile women with genetic defects in their mitochondria to have children, human genetic engineering is being used on a small scale. Healthy human eggs are used from a second mother. The child that is produced this way has genetic information from one father and two mothers. The changes that are made are permanent to the human genome because they are germline changes and will likely be passed down from one generation to another.

 

There are other forms of human genetic engineering, but they are still theoretical. Recombinant DNA research is usually used in the study of various human diseases and gene expression. Even though testing on humans is generally considered off-limits, but some drastic demonstrations of gene modification have been made with mice and other animals. Removing genetic material from one organism and transferring them into another species is how changes are usually brought about.

 

Genetically engineering human beings by modifying their genotypes before birth is involved in human genetic engineering. The genotype of a person is his/her genetic constitution with respect to a particular character under consideration. The traits that the individual possesses after his/her birth can be controlled by this.

 

In the form of genes, there are encoded information about the body’s growth, structure and functioning in the cells of the body. Decoding this information and applying it to the welfare of mankind is the aim of human genetic engineering. The two types of genetic engineering are:

 

Somatic modification:

Genes are added to the cells in this method. In the case of diseases caused by defective genes, this method could be a cure in the future. Somatic modifications can’t be inherited.

 

Germline modification:

Genes in the early embryos are changed in this form of human genetic engineering. However, the genes that are modified in this way can be inherited. This method results in permanent modifications, making it an effective form of genetic engineering.

 

Positive genetic engineering and negative genetic engineering are the two classifications of human genetic engineering. The positive traits of individuals are enhanced in positive genetic engineering, which could mean increased human capacity or increased longevity. On the other hand, the good copy of a certain gene is introduced into the cells of a living being in negative genetic engineering, which could reduce the suffering characteristic of genetic diseases to a great extent.

 

The DNA or genes of a person are changed in human genetic engineering. This could be used to bring about structural changes in human beings. It could also be used to introduce the genes for certain positive and desirable traits in embryos. A permanent cure for many diseases could be found with human genetic engineering.

 

Some people have certain exceptional qualities. In case the genes that are responsible for these qualities can be identified, they can be implanted in the early embryos, which could lead to something like “personalized babies”. The progression of human genetic engineering could reach an extent that it could be possible to discover new genes and embed them into unborn babies.

 

HUMAN GENETIC ENGINEERING – THE LIGHTER SIDE:

Gene therapy is considered to be one of the most important benefits of human genetic engineering. It has found treatments for certain heart diseases in the past decade. Researchers are hoping to find cures for all the genetic diseases, which will result in a healthier and more evolved human race.

 

A fetus with a genetic disorder could be treated before being born. This is one of the future benefits of human genetic engineering. With in-vitro fertilization, gene therapy could be used on embryos before being implanted into the mother. To produce pharmaceutical products of superior quality, genes could be cloned. Researchers are trying to find a way to bio-engineer plants or fruits to contain certain drugs.

 

HUMAN GENETIC ENGINEERING – THE DARKER SIDE:

Gene therapy could manifest side effects despite the fact that curing diseases by genetic modifications seems easy. Gene therapy could cause a defect while treating another one. Manipulating the genes of cells may not be so easy because any given cell is responsible for numerous activities.

 

The fundamental factors of human beings such as individuality and diversity could be at risk in the process of cloning. Ironically, man will become just another man-made thing in the case of cloning. Human genetic engineering has certain social aspects. A heavy financial burden could be imposed on the society by this new form of medical treatment. Along with its feasibility, its popularity will be determined by its affordability. Human genetic engineering can work miracles; it is a widely growing field. However, its benefits and threats should be carefully evaluated. Only if the genetic engineering of humans is handled with responsibility can its potential advantages come into reality.

 

CLONING:

Embryo cloning and reproductive cloning are the two main applications of cloning. Embryo cloning could be used to create new human parts. For instance, some researchers are trying to find a way to produce a new embryo from an existing person’s cells and then use the cells from that embryo to produce replacements for failing body parts in the original person. In about a week after conception, the embryo develops and consisted of a few identical cells in its early stages.

 

Reproductive cloning could be used to produce complete cloned individuals. Currently, genetic engineers are able to clone mice, cattle and sheep. Human cloning will produce a new person who is a near genetic copy of another person. However, because the clone will develop in a different environment and have different experiences, he/she will be different from the original person.

 

ETHICS:

Many controversial ethical issues have been raised by the genetic engineering of humans. The use of genetic engineering for human enhancement arouses the strongest feelings on both sides, while the debate on negative genetic engineering (gene therapy) is a little less intense. Genetic engineering is usually tested on primates as well as other animals. Some animal rights activists find this inhumane.

 

An ethical question about the rights of the baby is posed by genetic modification of embryos. Some people believe that parents have the right to change their unborn children; while others believe that every fetus should be free to not be genetically modified. Still others believe that every child should have the right to be born free from any preventable diseases.

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Prepared By: Dr. Mehyar Al-khashroum
Edited By: Miss Araz Kahvedjian


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