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Genetic Engineering

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Suzanne Bembridge Genetic Engineering Scientific study, ethical considerations, and the pursuit of a better human destiny, are the foundation for genetic engineering. But what is genetic engineering and why is there so much ethical controversy? Genetic engineering as defined by Pete Moore 1 "is the name given to a wide variety of techniques that have one thing in common: they all allow the biologist to take a gene from one cell and insert it into another". The structure of every living thing is determined by its genes. A gene is a chemical code which contains an instruction for the body to express a particular attribute such as eye colour, skin pigment or height. Each gene is made up of a segment of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Scientists are able to extract DNA from any organism and can then isolate a specific gene through the use of restriction endonucleases, which cut DNA strands at specific points. The gene is then copied and folded and transferred to another organism. ...read more.


An example of successful gene therapy was the first person to be given it, Ashanti DeSilva. She had severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). She was given infusions of cells containing the working gene that she lacked. She now needs regular injections but lives a normal life. 4 Scientists have found several ways to transfer healthy genes into cells containing the faulty gene. Viruses are often used as vectors (carriers). The reason viruses are used is because they can penetrate cells so can transfer genetic material into the host. Before the virus can be used as a vector the genes that code for proteins that the virus uses to reproduce itself must be removed. When this is complete, the virus can no longer cause illness. Possible drawbacks are that once the genes enter the cells, they can insert themselves randomly into the DNA. For example, if the gene disrupts a tumour suppressor gene that normally protects the body against cancer, a tumour may be formed. Also if gene therapy became widespread, where would we draw the line? ...read more.


Also, to create better living conditions for all through the genetic engineering of plants and livestock. Genetic engineering techniques could greatly improve human health, the environment, and agriculture, and must be explored by responsible scientists. Genetic engineering offers a beneficial future but should be pursued in a restricted manner so the positive effects can be obtained. We must not ignore ethical considerations such as the potential harmful affects on human health. All of this seems in our interests, so why the ethical problem? Perhaps this stems from people's perceptions of genetic modification as being some sort of sinister practice to create poisonous "Frankenstein" vegetables and "Playing God" by cloning sheep and humans. Perhaps it would be more welcomed if it did not seem unnatural. Perhaps also the media could print less scare stories and emphasise the beneficial aspects. Those opposed to genetic engineering worry about who will make the moral, ethical, and safety decisions. This means that the scientists in charge of making decisions regarding genetic engineering techniques must carefully weigh the practical advantages of such techniques against the moral disadvantages. ...read more.

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