- Term Papers, Book Reports, Research Papers and College Essays

The Human Genome Project

Essay by   •  November 22, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,760 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,957 Views

Essay Preview: The Human Genome Project

Report this essay
Page 1 of 8

The Human Genome Project has been marked by criticism since the projects initiation in the late 1980's. The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international, combined research program, which sought to completely map and understand the human genome and to identify all genes present in it. The two parties involved in deciphering the human genome were the privately funded Celera Genomics and the publicly funded Human Genome Project (Celera was set up eight years after HGP commenced). The two rivals later combined and shared their respective data - reaching completion of the project sooner than expected. It was announced on April 14, 2003 that the HGP was successfully complete, with 99.99% accuracy of the 99% of the genome sequenced.

As mentioned above, the project has been marked by criticism from many social groups the world over. Due to the obvious social implications of such research, a sub-division was set up within the HGP. The Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Research Program (ELSI) was established to address concerns that relate to the privacy of genetic information, protection of human subjects, and possibility of criminal action with the usage of data being produced by the HGP.

The Human Genome Project will greatly affect human welfare in many ways once the information that has been discovered, and put into practice. Issues relating to the understanding of human genetics, evolution, gene therapy and manipulation, improvements into health, and the downfalls of genetic testing will all be discussed below in terms of future human welfare.

With the completion of the HGP, scientists will be more easily able to explain how genes are expressed, how they mutate and how they are inherited. A better understanding of the interaction between genes will also be known. Mapping the human genome may also help to determine the role of the non-coding nucleotide regions - the introns, and the unknown functions of some genes may also be discovered. However with the vast amounts of knowledge gained, questions remain as to how it is to be used, and who can have access to the information. Whether private organisations have the rights to patent genes, gene fragments, proteins, stem cells etc, whether governments will be able to collect and use the genetic information gained from genetic testing. All these issues need to be addressed with stringent laws as to protect human welfare.

The completed human genome can be compared with genomes of other species and the similarities and differences of their evolutionary pathways can be compared. These comparisons may provide evidence to support current evolutionary theories or provide evidence to refute these theories. Therefore finally putting to rest the question as to the evolution of humanity.

The HGP provides a map of the chromosomes of a human, within this map it may determine the precise location of mutant genes, which have the potential to cause an inherited disorder in the individual, using this information, scientists may be able to initiate gene therapy to provide prevention form the disorder for the individuals. Gene therapy involves the insertion of healthy therapeutic cells into the cells of genes with the potential to cause an inherited disease. This treatment can be targeted at both the somatic or germline cells.

Genetic engineering is one of many issues concerning human welfare. The human genome provides information that will eventually allow diagnosis and treatment of many diseases. The mapping of the human genome will also allow for the determination of what genes produce physical and psychological qualities. From the information found out from the HGP, people today may start to remove the genes known to cause debilitating and fatal diseases, which would not cause (presumably) any problems to future generations. However if enhancement engineering continued on into the aesthetic traits such as height, skin colour etc, the future generations may feel that their self-identity has been manipulated in favour of trends of the particular time. Parents may have the possibility to dictate the physical characteristics of their unborn children. Further research needs to be done into this field before the public are able to do such acts, as the effects of such gene modification on the human gene pool are unknown. This kind of manipulation to the genes, may also lead to the creation of a "super" race, similar to that of the proposed Aryan race in Nazi Germany. It has also been suggested that due to the events that occurred during Nazi Germany, and more recent "ethnic cleansings"- humans may not be ready for the genetic knowledge we are pursuing (Cohen). Social scientists also feel that genetic research will also lessen the social diversity we currently have in society, and encourage bias and prejudice among one another.

The data derived from the HGP will help scientists associate specific traits and inherited diseases with particular genes at their precise chromosome location. This knowledge may lead to new tests to determine whether or not an individual is carrying 'faulty genes' for a particular disease before the disorder develops. However the identification of said 'faulty genes' might lead to the discrimination of individuals by insurance companies and employers and the development of a society constantly living in fear of what may be.

Genetic testing resulting from the completion of the HGP, may lead to society developing a constant state of fear for their health and well being. " Genetic analysis can tell whether someone is at a slightly higher or slightly lower risk of colon cancer: it cannot say whether the person will get the disease, at what age it will strike, how quickly it will be diagnosed, and whether treatment will be successful." (Spangerburg & Moser, Open for Debate Genetic Engineering pg 171). The population could be over come by hypochondriacs constantly wrestling with the possibility that they may or may not develop certain diseases, therefore causing an increased stress on the health care systems.

The issue concerning genetic testing and insurance companies has received much media attention. It is a great concern that insurance companies may use the new genetic information to discriminate against those needing medical coverage the most. When applying for insurance policies a family medical history along with urine and blood samples is required. However insurance companies may be allowed in the future to request genetic testing of candidates if no laws are put in place to prevent this. A balance needs to be attained between the rights of the individual and the rights of the insurance companies; "...comprehensive law would need to say that no insurance company may deny coverage or raise



Download as:   txt (10.9 Kb)   pdf (135.6 Kb)   docx (13.4 Kb)  
Continue for 7 more pages »
Only available on