Genetic Engineering

Genetic Engineering

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At the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, Dr. Keith Campbell, director of embryology at PPL therapeutics in Roslin, and his colleague Dr. Ian Wilmut worked together on a project to clone a sheep, Dolly, from adult cells. On February 22, 1997, they finally succeeded. Dolly was the only lamb born from 277 fusions of oocytes with udder cells. Wilmut says there were so many failures because it is difficult to ensure that the empty oocytes and the donor cell are at the same stage of the cell division cycle.To clone Dolly, basically scientists took an unfertilized egg cell, removed the nucleus, replaced it with cells taken from the organism to be cloned, put it into an empty egg cell which begins to develop as an embryo, and implanted this embryo into a mother, from which the clone was born.The fact that only 1 out of 277 attempts succeeded is a little scary when applied to human beings.

If an attempt to clone a human led to that high of a death toll, then there would not be many supporters. According to Rifkin, in an extensive survey of all 106 clinical trials of experimental gene therapies conducted over the past five years involving more than 597 patients, a panel of experts convened by the NIG reported that "Clinical efficacy has not been definitively demonstrated at this time in any gene therapy protocol, despite anecdotal claims of successful therapy." (545). These results are also happening with people who are trying to get gene therapy. With these facts on the table, it would not be ideal to try to clone humans if cloning an animal took several hundred attempts and human gene therapy has had hundreds of failures as well.Humans are going way beyond their limits in the field of biotechnology in the world today.

Until recently, these ideas were unheard of. Now with new technology, scientists are capable of changing an organism's genetic make-up. We are very eager to learn new things, however, this eagerness gets in the way of common sense all too often. As stated in Starr and Taggart's article, "we do not have the wisdom to bring about beneficial changes without causing great harm to ourselves or to the environment." (514). However, the naïve public may want to jump right into things, and scientists will not disagree.Scientists are messing with things that they should not be messing with.

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Once again, they are overstepping their boundaries.

They have barely taken the time or consideration to notice the moral and ethical dilemmas of cloning, let alone to know exactly what they are getting themselves into. The problem with the world today, is that everyone wants all these exciting things to happen without considering the consequences. New knowledge and technology is not used responsibly. It must be realized that cloning is disastrous and scientists should not do it.Another example of scientists jumping into things too fast is nuclear fusion. When scientists first discovered the process of fusion, they did not hesitate to apply it to a destructive use. They immediately created the uncontrollable atomic bomb and some of these were actually used (World War 2).

The Manhattan Project was designed to figure out how to use atomic power to kill enemies. The group of scientists was so confident in their bomb, they did not even test it; its first use was in military action when the United States bombed Hiroshima (Japan) in 1945. Soon after, the Hydrogen bomb was also created. These are a thousand times more powerful than atomic bombs.It wasn't until much later (1954) that the world discovered the implications of these dangerous bombs. Since the first test millions of people have wondered whether nuclear weapons will spell the end of life on our planet. As far as genetic engineering goes, it has been a part of life ever since life has existed.

As different organisms mated with other organisms of their same species, they evolved to have different characteristics from each other. Even before the manipulation of actual DNA strands, scientists were able to "clone" such foods as seedless watermelons. Now that the technology has been mastered, what will be cloned next? Clones are not likely to turn out the same as their origin.

The environment plays a huge role in how genes are expressed. For example, a person's genes for a large body size may not be fully expressed if that person has bad nutrition. Thus, two clones will probably not have the same personality or exact characteristics. Any human clone will experience problems identifying who they are. It is almost as if they no longer can have a sense of identity. How would you like it to have a homozygous (identical) twin who is several decades older than you?Animals also raise a good issue in the clone wars.

People have always seen animals as non-feeling savage beasts and as objects to be used as necessary. Scientists are figuring out how to grow organs in (non-human) animals for transplant purposes. In Starr and Taggart's article, it is stated that cattle produce human collagen for repairing cartilage, bone and skin (513). However, if an animal had a fully functioning human brain, how would he be classified? Would he be given the rights of a regular U.S. Citizen?

The opposite of this example presents a problem as well. If scientists were to clone humans with sub-par brains, then what would they be classified as? This cannot be a good idea at all. In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, there are different classes of people which are cloned; Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, Epsilons.

In this story, they "predestine and condition [by decanting the] babies as socialized human beings, as Alphas or Epsilons, as future sewage workers or future World controllers…" (497). Also, with the constant swapping of DNA and genetic material, it is very possible that diseases from one species of animal may mutate and infect the other. If this goes long enough, these diseases may become untreatable. I learned in a high school biology class that President Bill Clinton believes that everyone in the world should get their "DNA prints" when they are young (similar to fingerprints) and store them in a big library so that DNA can be used to identify any criminal. However, this is arguably a bit unethical, and, even if it is not seen as unethical, it just makes the situation a little tenser.

These "DNA prints" would mean that the government would have access to everyone's genes. They would know everything about everyone; could tell their weaknesses, approximate health problems, etc. This is an invasion of privacy. As Nelkin says "DNA is the essence of the person" (527).

Scientists may even tap into these resources for cloning purposes.Scientists think they can just jump in and start healing people. How are we supposed to keep down our monstrous growth rate if the field of medicine is becoming so advanced that even the scientists cannot handle it? The United Nations Population Division does world estimates every two years. According to their results, the population has gone from just over 1 billion at the turn of the century to 6 billion by the end. Also they have predicted that the population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050. According to the website NewAgeInteractive.Com, the world can only supply 8 million people with food, and this is only if all land areas are used to their maximum potential.

The cloning/creation of new human beings would just add to an already potent problem. It is great to be able to heal the sick, but with more people living longer, the world will become crowded even faster. Thus healing the sick would be detrimental to the existence of life on this planet. As more people are treated and have offspring of their own, increasing the Earth's population and population growth rate, we will approach that ugly 8 million people mark. We are not likely to eliminate all forests and pastures, so the actual sustainable population must be less than 8 billion.In conclusion, the ethical and moral implications of cloning are such that it would be wrong for anyone to agree with it.

The sole loss of life in both humans and non-humans is enough to prove that cloning would be a foolish endeavor, whatever the cause. After all, it took 277 incorrect tries before scientists got Dolly right, how many tries would it take to get a human right? Society as a whole must rethink this idea before jumping right into it. Tinkering with the essence of a person is a very perilous idea that could lead to negative changes in the world as we know it.
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