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What are the principle, ethical issues and experimental procedures used in genetic engineering and cloning? Should Cloning be allowed to continue?
In the 1970's, scientists discovered that strands of DNA could be cut using special enzymes, which could cut out genetic combinations. DNA contains information about genes particular organisms hold. Duplicates of genes are also possible through genetic engineering and are very useful for medical purposes. Advances in technology have raised issues such as animal and human cloning. These issues have caused many different sided arguments.
Some people feel that cloning should be banned, however never seen to see its medical value. There are already drug and medicine manufactures all over the world that are working on products that can be produced in cows' milk or even sheep or goats milk when the trait is cloned. Right now they are trying to produce vaccines against Malaria, antibodies against HIV, as well as proteins to treat haemophilia, muscle disease, internal intestinal infections, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis and emphysema. These same companies are also working on proteins to help digest fat and proteins to serve as nutritional supplements for infants, as well as different proteins, which are found in human blood, in cow's milk. None of these treatments would be possible in the future if cloning were banned.
The Safety of genetic engineering is something that presents much concern. Looking at the current precautions and previous precautions of the biotechnological industry can clear up the safety issue. The FDA and State Governments impose limits such as the illegalization of human cloning and limits on other genetic engineering processes. The only legal forms of genetic engineering that are used today are in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and sperm banks.
The moral question of genetic engineering is answered by looking at the advances in medicine. Today the advancements in medicine are evolving at an extremely high rate. If the science of genetic engineering is wrong, then so are the rest of the advances in medicine. The reason is because genetic engineering is just another form of medical advancement. Gene manipulation is not going to be used for any other purpose except for the treatment and elimination of disease. The one thing that people need to realize is the potential of genetic engineering. Try to visualize what parents of a child is dying from a disease like multiple sclerosis think about the benefits of genetic engineering.
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Genetic Diseases affects a large proportion of our population. A Genetic Disease is an illness passed on through genes, such diseases include Cystic Fibrosis, Huntington's disease and sickle cell anaemia. These diseases can cause paralysis, mental deteriorating, and physical deformity, all leading to death. Some Genetic Diseases can be detected by prenatal tests but others such as Huntington's can only be detected in early adulthood. Genetic engineering is being used all over the world to help and cure these fatal diseases.
There is an article from the "Times" that is about a middle aged man who is suffering from Huntington's disease. There are no cures at present but stem cell therapy was suggested to replace defective cells in the brain, which lead to the symptoms of Huntington's. This therapy worked or this man until his condition worsened. The man and his wife encourage the research into stem cell and hope that one day it will lead to treatment for Huntington's.
Some benefits are used in medicine today, but the real benefits will come as genes can be altered more. The real benefit that will help mankind is when bioengineers will be able to replace a cancer or defective gene with a gene that does not have an error in its genetic code. "The new science of genetic engineering aims to take a dramatic shortcut in the slow process of evolution". What is meant by the previous quote from Stableford 25 is that scientists hope to take a gene from an organism and change it so that it will be immune to certain diseases and free from cancer. For example, many years ago small pox was widely spread. Today it is almost nonexistent, because of the evolution of man. The only problem with this was it took hundreds of years for our genetic code to adapt and make our bodies fight it.
Plants are also being genetically engineered. This type of genetic engineering is more commonly accepted, but why? It is no different for a plant to be able to fight off pests then it is for a human to be able to fight off diseases. This is a contradiction, because society is saying that it is all right for a plant to be genetically engineered but not a human.
Many people also think that this new biotechnology is letting scientists and doctors play god. These doctors are not trying to recreate human science; they are just trying to perfect its flaws. Doctors and scientists have already helped diabetics with their synthetic insulin, and unfertile parents are now able to have children. Those that oppose genetic engineering because doctors are trying to play god, do not realize what genetic engineering has already contributed to our world. Society should research issues before forming an ignorant opinion.
One example of Cloning is "Dolly". Dolly was the first ever mammal cloned from a cell of an adult animal. Dolly is an example of asexual reproduction. Unfertilised eggs were taken from a sheep and were reconstructed. These reconstructed eggs were cultured for 6 days and inserted into a surrogate ewes. Dolly the lamb was born 148 days later. Dolly was produced after 277 failures, what happened to them? There are many experiments that were "genetic disasters". The Beltsville pig was one of the many genetic hiccups.
After the success of cloning "Dolly", fears about cloning led to a total ban on the cloning of humans in many countries. The advance in technology is moving fast, already people can pay to decide what sex their unborn child will be. In 20 years, scientists believe we will be able to design our babies, even if the technology is only available for the rich. Gene Therapy will enable parents to choose eye colour, hair colour, build etc. Even the temperament of the child could be decided. Gene therapy is illegal at the moment because people should not be able to create the perfect child, but they should be able to correct a gene in a child if it has a chance of being born with Down syndrome. The safety precautions are in effect in order to save the lives of unborn babies. Gene therapy cannot be used on humans until it is perfected and there is little or no chance of failure. These sciences are not perfect but give it a few years and it will be a great benefit to the human race.
There are many doctors prepared to make the first human clone such as Professor Severino Antinori. However there are many doctors who feel the procedure would be unsafe such as Dr Harry Griffin (who worked on the dolly project). I myself feel that it would be immoral to clone humans just for the sake of it. It is unsafe to clone humans, it took 277 attempts to clone dolly imagine the loss of 277 human life's, it would be a scandal. The overwhelming reaction from most people was that human cloning should not be done. The fear that people have toward genetic engineering is not new to science. Ever since the beginning of science, man has been afraid of the unknown. Space travel and flying were not widely accepted until the twentieth century and was completely absurd just one hundred years ago. Today they are widely accepted and are used everyday. Genetic engineering is in the first stage of its discovery and will emerge in the twenty first century and will be as accepted as is flying and space travel. The people of the world should ease up on holding back the evolution of science and realize its possibilities for future generations.