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Gene Therapy Analysis

Essay by   •  December 5, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,312 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,446 Views

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I. Introduction

Throughout history, humans have always asked the question of why, for example, why do offspring look similar to their parents. The answer to this question was answered by Gregor Mendel who is considered the father of Genetics. Within the field of genetics there is a field called gene therapy or genetic engineering, which is, the scientific alteration of the structure of genetic material in a living organism.

II. History of Gene Therapy

Many scientists theorized that DNA and genes could be altered to create a specific type of organism, but none of them could actually understand how no it could be done. It wasn't until 1865 when an Augustinian monk named Gregor Mendel found that individual traits are determined by discrete "factors," later known as genes, which are inherited from parents. Mendel performed his tests on pea plants, and discovered the phenomena of dominance and recessive traits within plants. Through his experiments, Mendel proposed two laws: the law of segregation, and the law of independent assortment.

After Mendel studies in genetics slowed down, but in 1932 studies in genetic engineering were being done at the Sixth International Congress of Genetics. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) Then in the 1960s, gene transfers were successfully completed within in bacteria, followed by the experiments in the 1970s and 1980s which made gene transfer in mammalian cells practical. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

III. Gene Therapy and Humans

Although many tests and studies have been doing for agricultural purposes, scientists are truly searching for a way to alter human genes. Cloning, reproduction, and eliminating diseases are the main reasons why the science world wants to attempt genetic engineering in humans. (Capecchi 34)

Cloning, this is making multiple identical copies of a DNA sequence. While cloning of humans as a whole is still illegal, there are many reasons that cloning is important to man. For example, hair loss is a big problem for many individuals; through cloning a single hair follicle from the individual can be duplicated so that the new hair they receive will match precisely with the rest of their head. ( 36) Furthermore, doctors are trying to perfect cloning so that they can replace the limbs that people have lost in accidents. (40)

Furthermore, gene therapy has become and interesting component of the reproductive process. Today more than ever, couples are using scientific means to reproduce the best offspring possible. Doctors are now using a technique called Sperm Washing, which is a process in which individual sperm are separated and inseminated into a woman. (56) This new practice is being used specifically for couples where one or more of the partners are HIV positive, to ensure that the offspring is not infected with the virus. (63) DNA mapping and gene transfers are also being used in the reproductive process so that now parents can basically choose the type of child they want to have; the chose of eye color, body type, and hair type is no longer up to mother nature, but it is now up to the parents. (74)

The elimination of certain diseases has always been something doctors have strived for. Recently they have looked at gene therapy as a means of ridding patients of certain genes that play a big part in the development of certain diseases. Today genetic engineering is being used to eliminate diseases, such as brain disease, Huntington's disease, hemophilia, Down syndrome, and cystic fibrosis. (99) Everyday physicians are finding more ways to isolate certain genes and transfer them with better genes so that people afflicted with these diseases can lead somewhat normal lives. (104)

IV. Society's Opposing Views on Gene Therapy

Just like any other issue, there are many opposing views on the subject of gene therapy.

Some view gene therapy as dangerous; they feel as genetic engineering experiments produce monstrous, unnatural, and deformed organisms. (Johnson 17) Individuals on the con side of gene therapy also feel that genetic engineering will result in the devaluing of life because; genes embryos, and ultimately people will all be thought of as commodities to be bought and sold. (17) Another argument that opponents have are that gene therapy is affecting agriculture with genetically engineered plants and animals. (20)

In contrast to those views, many individuals believe that genetic engineering is necessary to the evolution of the human race. The pro side feels that gene therapy speeds up the process of natural evolution to make things better; for example, they believe crops that are genetically altered can provide more nutrients and a better taste. (25) On top of that, diseases and illnesses can be cured. (27) On person went so far as to say "If Mother Nature wanted the things were to final, then why are gene transformations possible?"

Religious officials feel that gene therapy is in direct conflict with the bible. Theologians believe so much in the human spirit that when the "spirit" or the genetic make-up is altered then the people doing this are trying to play God, which is an un-Godly act. (www.religioustolerance.org) In

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