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Genetic Engineering: A Blessing Or A Curse?

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Science is a creature that continues to evolve at a much higher rate than the beings that gave it birth. The transformation time from plant, to ape, to human far exceeds the time from a calculator to a computer. However science in the past has always remained distant. It has allowed for advances in production, transportation, and even entertainment, but never in history has science be able to so deeply affect our lives as genetic engineering will undoubtedly do. With the new technology there will be, of course, people against it. People who are afraid that genetic engineering and cloning are nothing more than "toys of the devil". They fear that it is unsafe. However, I believe genetic engineering is a safe and powerful tool that will yield extraordinary results, specifically in the field of medicine. It will usher in a world where gene defects, bacterial disease, and even aging are a thing of the past. By understanding genetic engineering and it's history, discovering it's possibilities, and answering the moral and safety questions it brings forth, the blanket of fear covering this remarkable technical miracle can be lifted.

The first step to understanding genetic engineering and embraccing its possibilities for society is to obtain a rough knowledge base of its history and method. To start off with, you must somehow find an understanding of how individuals pass on characteristics to their offspring. For instance, in regards to eye colour, a child could receive one set of genes from his or her father that were encoded one blue, and the other brown. The same child could also receive two brown genes from his or her mother. The conclusion for this inheritance would be the child has a three in four chance of having brown eyes, and a one in three chance of having blue eyes.

Genes are transmitted through chromosomes, which reside in the nucleus of every living organism's cells. Each chromosome is made up of fine strands of deoxyribonucleic acids, or DNA. The information carried on the DNA determines the cells function within the organism.

"The new science of genetic engineering aims to take a dramatic short cut in the slow process of evolution". In essence, scientists aim to remove one gene from an organism's DNA, and place it into the DNA of another organism. This would create a new DNA strand, full of new envcoded instructions, instructions like I mentioned before whether or not a child will have brown or blue eyes. A strand that would have taken Mother Nature millions of years of natural selection to develop. Isolating and removing a desired gene from a DNA strand involves many different tools. Now that I've explained the scientific side of genetic engineering I thought it would be interesting to explore various viewpoints. Being a Devil's advocate, so to say.

Viewpoint 1

There's literally no limit to what you could do with genetic engineering. Once you have the understanding of how to control instructions given to cells, anything can de done. Like for example, take insulin, Insulin could be created by growing a certain bacteria. The supply of insulin is also not dependent

on tissue samplings from animals.

Throughout the centuries disease has plagued the world, forcing everyone to take part in a virtual "lottery with the agents of death". Whether viral or bacterial in nature, such diseases are currently being dealt with vaccines and antibiotics. These treatments contain many unsolved problems. The difficulty with applying antibiotics to destroy bacteria is that it mutates, sometimes resulting in mutant bacterium which is resistant to antibiotics.

This indestructible bacterial wages war on the human body. Genetic engineering is conquering this problem by utilising diseases that target bacteria. These diseases are viruses, named bacteriophages, "which can be produced to attack specific disease-causing bacteria". Much success has already been obtained by treating animals with a "phage" designed to attack the E. coli bacteria.

Current medical capabilities allow for the transplant of human organs, and even mechanical parts, such as the battery powered pacemaker. Current science can even re-apply fingers after they have been cut off in accidents, or attach synthetic arms and legs to allow patients to function normally in society. But would not it be better if the human body could simply regrow what it needed, such as a new kidney or arm? Genetic engineering can make this a reality. Certain types of salamanders can re-grow lost limbs, and some lizards can shed their tails when attacked and later grow them again.

Viewpoint 2

Ever since biblical times the lifespan of a human being has been pegged at roughly 70 years. But is this number truly finite? In order to uncover the answer, knowledge of the process of aging is needed. A common conception is that the human body contains an internal biological clock which continues to tick for about 70 years, then stops. An alternate "watch" analogy could be that the human body contains a certain type of alarm clock, and after so many years, the alarm sounds and deterioration beings. With that frame of thinking, the human body does not begin to age until a particular switch is tripped. In essence, stopping this process would simply involve a means of never allowing the switch to be tripped. W. Donner Denckla, of the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology,



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