Monday, August 25, 2008

Not at all natural

Over the past decade genetic engineers have made huge advances in the field of genetic modification. Organisms have been cloned, and genomes have been completely sequenced. It seems as if there are an endless amount of possibilities in terms of what scientists can achieve with knowledge of genetics and the tools to alter these instructions for life. The social controversies that will arise from these advances will undoubtedly require skeptical thinking.
First I'd like to mention the field of genetically modified food. So you've probably already heard about Prince Charles's Paranoid doomsday rant against GM food from earlier this week. Luckily for all the starving people in the world, Prince Charles isn't much more than an insignificant figurehead. Genetic engineers will continue developing ways to increase the yield and nutritional value of our food. Of course, precautions need to be taken, and there are already researchers that work constantly to determine the possible consequences of modifying an organism to the public and the environment.
Here's how inserting a gene from a soil dwelling bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, into a simple corn plant can cause the corn to be poisonous to the corn worms that threaten to diminish the yield of the crop, without harming humans who consume it.

The prospect of curing many diseases have driven the field of genetic modification forward into the world of animals. Maybe you’ve seen fluorescent fish like these at your local pet store.

In this case, genetic engineers extracted DNA from jellyfish and inserted that genetic information into zebra fish. This gene dictates the construction of fluorescent proteins, and results in an organism that glows under ultraviolet light. When the fish reproduce, their offspring are also fluorescent. From what I understand, these are the only genetically modified pets that are available to the public right now. In the past several years, scientists have tried this with multiple genes that code for different fluorescent colors in a variety of animals. This research can help scientists to have a better understanding of gene expression.
Check out these fluorescent pigs.

I don't know about you, but I think being fluorescent would be pretty badass.

Although this example seems almost novel, new research in genetics is quickly propelling us forward into an age where we could select for many different traits in humans.
This may sound very 'Frankenstein' at this point, but the fact is that people are constantly born with genetic diseases that could soon be avoided by employing the method of gene therapy. Modifying the genotype of a human could also increase the size of a human, alter any birth defects, or even raise the overall intelligence of the person.

So the question is: Where do we draw the line in terms of what techniques would be considered treating a disease, and what techniques would simply be enhancing the person?

The possibilities of people we could save with these genetic alterations are endless, but these advancements will undoubtedly lead to a countless number of ethical debates that will have very real consequences. The fact is that we will all have to employ methods of critical thinking to make a decisions on such complex issues.These issues, without a doubt, will be politically charged, but for those of us who do look beyond party affiliation, how should these decisions be made?

Whats the difference between someone who's lacking in a trait like height or intelligence to the point where gene therapy is the answer, and someone who just happens to be below the average?

It seems we may need to draw a clear line in the sand separating what kind of gene alterations are treating diseases, and what kind are simply trivial enhancements that only marginally increase chances of that individual’s survival.

Give me some feedback.

That's all I've got for now,



buy kamagra said...

They are indeed making huge advances in genetics, but I think there is still much to learn, we need to understand the function between genetics and our consciousness and our soul, and how both relate to each other.

Anonymous said...

The comment above is made by a sneaky spammer; disguising his spam by writing a real response. There is no such thing as a soul BTW.