During our zodiac animal discussion during week 7, we were prompted to research bioengineering in animals. Personally, I saw all the benefits in genetically modifying animals, including environmental, ethical, and economical reasons. However, that is still quite a controversy today despite the advances in biotechnology. In fact, we have the capability to genetically modify the human genome. Editing the human genome has amazing benefits and could be the answer to many genetic diseases. On the other hand, it also has room for malpractice and misuse for personal gains. For my final paper, I would like to discuss the pros and cons of human engineering, propose some guidelines and policies, and also discuss the dystopian film “GATTACA” in relation to this topic and include some commentary on the film.
In this proposal, I would like to address a few points to discuss human genome editing.
Testing for Diseases
Genetic test for diseases are beneficial and how embryos which are free from the specific genetic illness can be created in vitro and implanted into a uterus. The process is called "preimplantation genetic diagnosis." Furthermore, there is an ongoing debate regarding the ethics of using a genetic test for diseases with no known cures. There are claims that with a positive diagnosis of a possible untreatable disease, it would cause harm to the individual "by creating undue stress and anxiety." There have been social science research regarding this debate which yielded results which generated both negative and positive results. The negative being these individuals are now aware of their situation and feel a sense of loss and hopelessness. The positive being these individuals now have a definitive answer to their uncertainty and therefore would reduce anxiety. This would also give them to opportunity to make positive changes in life - retiring early, traveling more, etc.
What began as a way to isolate genes responsible for disease, developed into tests for traits and behavior completely unrelated to disease. Through these tests, it was concluded that there are many factors which may contribute to the phenotype. But the main question is, "Does knowing whether one has the genetic background for these non-disease traits negatively affect one's self-concept or health perception?" Basically, genome editing could be a solution to these genetic diseases, however, more research would have to be done on my end to further discuss that possibility. Tests for non-disease traits may lead to a world where the inferiority complex would be rampant which the movie "GATTACA" exemplifies this situation.
Better Athletes Through Gene Doping
Genetic modifications would be equivalent to doping - a way for an athlete to achieve better performance through the use of drugs. All of this leads to the biggest questions. "Does conferring one desirable trait create other, more harmful consequences? Are gene doping and other forms of genetic engineering something worth exploring, or should we, as a society, decide that manipulation of genes for non-disease purposes is unethical?" This is one negative aspect of human genome editing as people would take advantage of it for their personal benefit.
Creating Designer Babies
People now believe that with the improvements in science and technology, genetic diagnosis can lead to embryos being specifically altered to be "perfect" rather than using the technology to target the specific disease. These perfected embryos are referred to as "designer babies." Especially since all of this is all so new, not much is known about the potential repercussions. There may be a chance that health risks which may have never existed may arise from a "designed" individual. There has even been a study where scientists found a gene that is linked to memory. They modified this gene and found that even though they greatly improved learning and memory, pain sensitivity was also increased. Another argument against would be consent of the embryo. "Should parents be allowed to manipulate the genes of their children to select for certain traits when the children themselves cannot give consent?" The final argument is that this is extremely expensive and therefore only the most privileged members of society would have access to. This would ultimately "create a genetic aristocracy and lead to new forms of inequality."
These are just a few points from the controversial topic of human engineering. I hope to delve deeper into this subject for my final.