Human Engineering 1. Introduction 2. Human Engineering a.The Science of Genetics b.The Computer Revolution c. The Tissue Culture d.The Economic Factors 3. The Promises & Perils of Genetic Engineering 4. Philosophical Analysis 5. Conclusion
Genetic Engineering Public interest and concern Some have raised and alarm while others while others have welcomed it as a representing a brave new world. We attempt to consider some of the crucial challenges as well as the opportunities of this genetic commerce.
Fire a Great Resource Fire has provided humans with light, power and heat. The power of fire led humans to melt the resources of nature and shape it into a world of pure utility. shift form muscle power to the use of fire. But today humans are faced with short supply of fire power as the reserves of fossil fuels are thinning. Thus we are faced with triple crises: dwindling of the earth’s non-renewable energy reserves, the dangerous built up of global warming and a steady decline of in biodiversity.
The Power of Genes The power of genes can be compared to the power of fire. Scientists are beginning to understand as well as reorganize life at genetic level. The promise and perils of this revolution are unmatched in history.
The Convergent Forces that Ushered in the Genetic Revolution The Science of Genetics The Computer Revolution The Tissue Culture The Economic Factors
The Genetic Science Plato the great Greek philosopher accepts a kind of heredity. Aristotle also seems to believe that the ‘concept’ of chicken is implicit in the egg, or that acorn was ‘informed’ by the plan of the oak tree. But it is only with the rediscovery of the great work of 1863 Austrian catholic monk Gregor Mendel the new science of genetics developed.
Eugenics Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin championed the movement that aimed at improving the human race by applying the laws of heredity. He neologized the term eugenic. He and his sympathizers called on the Government to prevent the propagation of the ‘unfit’ humans by forbidding their marriage, separating them from the society or forcibly sterilizing them
Some scholars and politicians saw eugenics as a salvation for humanity from poverty, crime and other social-evils. The eugenic movement reached it climax in 1924 in United States and tumbled down with the crash of the stock market which rendered many of the elites on level with the poor. The 1933 saw the rise of Hitler in Germany and soon he enacted the Hereditary Health Law, a eugenics sterilization statute a great eugenic campaign. Indeed the Nazis used arguments from eugenics to justify many of their atrocious atrocities.
Understanding DNA (1940 Onwards) Oswald Avery experimentally defined the role of DNA as the genetic material. The discovery of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953 provided the stimulus for the growth of genetics at the molecular level and one saw a period of intense activity and excitement as the main features of gene and its expression were determined.
Computer Revolution After more than forty years of running on parallel tracks the information and life science have fused together into a single technological and economic force. Computers are increasingly being used to decipher, manage and organize the vast genetic information that is a raw resource of the emerging biotech economy.
As a result, bioinformatics has emerged as a new disciple. Scientists are now able to catalogue rich genetic information in the new genre of biological data banks. Marriage between computers and genes have brought about new store houses of genetic capital for the use of biotech industry.
Manipulation of the DNA 1967 the enzyme DNA ligase was isolated. It was found that this enzyme could join two strands of DNA together, a prerequisite for the construction of recombinant molecules, and is sometime regarded as a molecular glue. The isolation of the first restriction enzymes took place in 1970. Restriction enzymes are nothing but molecular scissors, that cut DNA at a precisely defined sequence..
Stanford University generated the first recombinant DNA as early as 1972. For the first time the scientific community realized that scientist could now join DNA molecules together and could link the DNA of one organism to that of a completely different organism. In 1973 the scientist made yet another leap in this field when they successfully joined DNA fragments to the plasmid pSC101, which is an extrachromosal element isolated from the bacterium Escherichia coli. These recombinant molecules could replicate when introduced into E.coli cells
Marriage of Computers & Genes Several researchers are already engaged in mapping and sequencing the entire genome of creatures from the lowliest bacteria to human beings with the goal of harnessing and exploiting genetic information for economic purposes. By the end of the twenty first century, the molecular biologists hope to have the genetic ‘blueprints’ of tens of thousand organisms that populate the earth. This biological information is so great that it can only be managed and stored electronically in thousands of databases in the computers.
The successful cataloguing of the human Genome has demonstrated the need of the power of the nexus between life sciences and computer sciences. Mapping and sequencing genome is only a beginning. Understanding and the chronicling of the webs of relationships between genes, tissues, organs, organisms and external environment, the perturbations that trigger genetic mutations and phenotypical responses is heavily depended on the computational skills of the information scientists. As a result bioinformatics has come of age. Titans like Bill Gates and Wall Street etc are pumping huge amount of funds into bioinformatics.
Virtual Biological Environments Computers are being used to generate virtual biological environments to study biological organisms, networks and ecosystems. These virtual environment allow researchers to create new hypothesis and scenario that can be used in the laboratory to test new agricultural and pharmaceutical products and medical treatments on living organism. Working in virtual environment, biologists can create new synthetic molecules with few strokes bypassing often the laborious process that can often take years of effort on the lab bench. The compound, known as QM212, was generated in the computer and its real-life counterpart is now being batch produced in several biotech laboratories. Scientists plan to generate all sorts of new compounds that ‘could reproduce themselves, conduct electricity, detect pollution, stops tumors, counter the effect of cocaine and block the progress of aids’ in the near future.
DNA Chip In 1996 the molecular biology took everyone by surprise with the announcement of the first DNA Chip. These chips resemble computer chips and are packed with DNA and are designed to read the genomic information in the genomes of living organisms. Some scientists use them to detect genetic abnormalities..
Scientists claim that in the near future the DNA chips would be able to scan an individual patient, read his or her genetic make up and would be even able to detect genes that function abnormally. Scientists say that we shall be able to detect which genes flick on or of at any given time
Molecular Computer The final frontier in the integration of the life sciences and information technology comes in the form of molecular computer, a thinking machine made of DNA strands rather than silicon. Scientist have already developed the first molecular computer and most of them feel that the these computers are the computers of the future. Unlike most computers that are sequential and can only handle one thing at a time. The DNA computers on the other hand are massive parallel computing machines that theoretically compute hundred million billion things at once.
The Tissue Culture Some scholars date it as past as to 1885. It is reported that an embryologist Roux succeeded in maintaining the medullary plate of a chick in a warm saline medium for three days. In 1903, Jolly made a careful observation on in Vitro cell survival and cell divisions using salamander leuckocytes. In the early experiments, fragments of tissue were studied and hence the technique came to be known as tissue culture.
One of the main difficulty of tissue culture was to keep the cells free from contaminations. Thanks to the work Alex Carrel aseptic techniques came to be used in tissue culture. Due to the nutritional needs of cells, embryo extracts or animal blood serum came to be added to the cell These were vulnerable to contamination but the addition of the antibiotics, penicillin and streptomycin to the cell culture from the 1940’s onwards alleviated this problem. Another significant development was the use of trypsin (a proteolytic enzymes) by Rous and Jones in 1916 to free cells from tissue matrix. Today the tissue culture is much advanced with standardized media and sophisticated incubation condition. By 1940s and 1950s, tissue culture media were developed and conditions were worked out that closely simulated the situation in Vivo.
Tissue culture is dived into two: (1) Organ culture, (2) Cell culture. In organ culture whole embryo or small tissue fragments are cultured in such a way that they keep their tissue architecture. Cell cultures on the other hand are obtained either by enzymatic or mechanical dispersal of tissue into individual cells or by spontaneous migration of cells from an explant, and they are maintained as attached monolayers or as cell suspension. Freshly isolated cell cultures are known as primary cell cultures. Once a primary cultured is sub-cultured, we get cell lines and when a complete animal is obtained from a somatic cell of an animal, it is christened as animal cloning. Thus we have the cloning of Dolly, a sheep in 1997 at Roslin Institute U.K by Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell and colleagues.
The Economic Factor Genes appear to have become ‘green gold’ and one can already notice that the political as well as the economic powers are all out to gain control over the genetic resources of our planet. Hence multinational corporation are funding research and are scouting the continents in search of genes that have market value. Comodification of the gene pool had lead to the their patenting. Thus letting the control of our life into the hands of the scrupulous business masters who might buy or sell it for thirty silver pieces.
The Question of Patents In 1971 an Indian microbiologist, Ananda Chakrabarty an employee General Electronic company applied to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for a patent on a genetically engineered microorganism designed to consume oil spills on the oceans. PTO rejected while the court of customs approved it. in 1980, by a slim margin of Chakraborty won by a slim margin of five is to four in the supreme court. Genetic engineering is about turning genes, the heritage of millions of years of evolution and their conversion into intellectual property of some corporation that in the name of protection from biopriracy end up with monopoly over the genes. This comodification and privatization of life has profound ethical implications.
The Promises & Perils of Genetic Engineering Genetic Engineering has the power to bring about a new genesis on our planet. The possible whole sale transfer of genes from totally unrelated species and across all biological boundaries-plant, animal and human and the resultant emergence of thousand of novel life forms in brief moment of evolutionary time chiefly controlled by economic gain is not beyond the iota of abuse.
Genetic Engineering & Agribusiness Genetic Engineering is mostly used commercially in agricultural sector. Plants are genetically engineered to have an inbuilt resistance to the pest and to fix nitrogen like the symbiotic bacteria. Insects are genetically engineered to attack the crop predators. C.S Prakash, the director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University in Alabama, and his team of researchers have developed a sweet potato with five times the amount of protein of a normal sweet potato. Such an improvement can bless millions of people in Africa and other places where the tubers form the staple element of their diet. Terminator seeds that claim to give us high yield are being designed by multi-national companies like Monsanto. These seeds are designed to be sterile unless activated by a chemical that the company sell. These companies this move allows them to control genetic pollution as there might be possibilities of cross-pollination with weedy relatives creating super-weeds. Scientist say that genetically modified organisms provide us the best opportunity to feed approximately 800 million people who now are victims of malnutrition. But the use of genetically modified food for human consumption does raise questions of human health and well being.
Genetic Engineering of Animals Genetically engineered animals are developed as living factories for the production of pharmaceuticals and sources of organ transplantation for humans. The liver of a baboon and the heart of a pig can be transplanted into a human being. These animals that provide organs are called xenograghs and the process is often called xenografting.
There is still one more difficulty. xenografting is potent with the dangers of transmitting of some harmful viruses. For instance, it has been discovered that the sub-species of chimpanzee had harbored the AIDS virus for 100,000 years. The virus does not harm chimpanzees but we know that it has become fatal to humans. Animal rights activists are up in arms against what they look at as a cruel interference in the life of the animals.
Biological Warfare Biological ware (B W) makes use of micro- organisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi for military purposes. The knowledge accumulated through genetic engineering may be used to develop wide range of pathogens to attack plants, animal and human populations. Biological weapons can be viral, bacterial, fungal, rickettsial and protozoan. These biological agents can mutate, reproduce, multiply and spread over large geographic terrain by wind, water, insect, animal and human transmission.
The recombinant DNA technology allows the possibility of creating nearly infinite variety of designer pathogens that were never seen before. It is possible to insert lethal genes in otherwise harmless microorganisms. This research is also laden with dangers of accidental intrusion of designer gene weapons from the laboratories into our environment causing great damage to us and our ecosystem.
Genetic Pollution Every genetically modified organism that is released in the environment poses a potential threat to the ecosystem. The genetically induced pollution is very different and inherently more unpredictable than the petro-chemicals in a way they interact with the environment. Genetically engineered organisms are self-replicating. They grow and they migrate. As a result it is unlike the petro- chemical products, it is difficult to confine them in some geographical place. Once released in the environment it is next impossible to recall them back into the laboratory especially those organisms that are microscopic in nature. Much of the research in agricultural biotechnology is centered on the creation of herbicide-tolerant, pest-resistant and virus resistant transgenic plants.
Herbicide-tolerant: Overused of herbicides due to weeds developing resistance causing great harm to us, soil, water and beneficial insects. Pest-resistant: May lead to the grow of ‘super bugs’ Virus resistant: May lead to the emergence of new viruses that were never known before.
Geneflow This involves the transfer of the transgenic genes from transgenic crops to their weedy relatives by way of cross- pollination. This also brings up the dangers of geneflow of herbicide-tolerant, pest-resistant, and virus resistant transgenic superweeds.
The ambitious plans to engineer transgenic plants to serve pharmaceutical factories for the production of chemicals and drugs, vaccines and industrial enzymes subject many seed- eating birds, insects etc., to serious risks of untold consequences.
Depletion of the Gene Pool The technology of genetic manipulation gives us immense opportunities to transform natural genetic resources into marketable commodities, it still remains utterly dependent on nature’s seed stock (germplasm) for it raw resources. Thus as of now we can mine genes in the laboratory but cannot create it de novo. The practice of genetic engineering is likely to increase genetic uniformity. This would mean that the very genetic diversity that is required the success of biotech industry in the future.
The Use of Human Genes More and more human genes are being used into non- human organism to create new forms of life that are genetically partly human. Thus a mouse is genetically engineered to produce human sperms that is then used in the conception of a human child. There are several companies are developing pigs that have organs in order facilitate the use of the organs for humans.
The idea is that you have your own personal organ donor pigs with your genes implanted. When one of your organ gives out.you can use the pig’s. But this xenographs raise many fundamental questions. What makes us human? What percentage of humans genes does a organism contain before it is considered as human. Will we have no qualms to use sperms produced by rats to get our progeny. shall we be able eat food that has own genes?
User Friendly Eugenics Genetic engineering has re-introduced eugenics in our lives. This new eugenics have very little in common with the old eugenic movement that was mainly depended on racial purity while the new eugenics focuses on the pragmatic terms of increased economic efficiency, better performance standards, and improvement of quality of life. The old eugenics was triggered by political ideology and was motivated by fear and hatred. The new eugenics is being spurred by consumer desire and market forces.
Genetic Information & Genetic Discrimination DNA sequencing provides us a tremendous scope to diagnose and treat many of genetically induces sickness. But this very genetic information raises many apprehensions that that it could victimize the private life of many. The employers might screen the genetic information in screening and selecting the employees or continuing them in service. An insurer might use such information for extending or denying the benefits of information to his clients.
A prospective bride or a groom might want to probe in the future health condition of his or her partner. The parents may go for selective abortion on learning about the genetic disorders in the embryo. This mean we might shut all doors to Stephen Hawking like genius in the future. Hence the questions that are pertinent here is – is it proper to bring the private genetic information of an individual in the public domain? Do we need legal safe guards to protect the sanctity of Genetic Information? In countries like the U.S. legislative safe guards are already introduced.
Somatic Therapy The use of recombinant DNA to treat disease involving missing or defective gene is called as genetic therapy. Genetic therapy that involves inserting a normal gene into the targeted cells to produce a protein that would be normally produced by the missing or defective gene. The somatic therapy affect only the bodily cells and not the reproductive cells. Somatic therapy has been tried on many individuals with cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and muscular dystrophy with varying degree of success but to this date no one has found a way to reliably control the therapeutic genes to make them clinically useful. Yet many scientists believe that as techniques improve gene therapy would bear fruits. Many ethicist think that somatic therapy can be used for proportionate reasons.
Stem Cell Research Stem cells promise huge therapeutic benefits to humans. Stem cells have the ability of developing into bodily needed body parts such as tissues and organs. Stem cells are chiefly harnessed from embryos and this results into abortion and hence remains questionable. But stem cells obtained from adult skin blood and bone marrow and fat and blood harvested from the umbilical cord and the placenta is highly recommended.
The goal of any stem cell therapy is to repair a damaged tissue that can't heal itself. This might be accomplished by transplanting stem cells into the damaged area and directing them to grow new, healthy tissue. It may also be possible to coax stem cells already in the body to work overtime and produce new tissue. To date, researchers have found more success with the first method, stem cell transplants
Human Cloning The successful cloning of Dolly in 1997 and the possibility of human cloning has provoked a world wide debate. Subsequent reports that the Hawaiian scientist producing three generations of mice and the Japanese scientists producing eight identical calves from a single adult cow has brought us closer to the possibility of cloning humans. Some predicted ‘ today sheep and tomorrow the shepherd’. Soon a French scientist Brigitte Boisselers, the president of cloning society clonaid, claimed that her team has cloned a baby girl whom she christened ‘Eve’. Many scientists rubbished her claims. Yet we all know that humanity is at the threshold of human cloning.
Cloning basically involves an implantation of the nucleus into a de-nucleated egg which then is chemically treated so that the combination behaves like a fertilized egg. This fertilized egg develops into an embryo with the entire genetic code of the implanted nucleus. The issue of cloning is of urgent importance as it represents a radical break from past and can effect our future in a deeply significant way. Although it has many therapeutic boons, the specter of it being misused is equally alarming.
The possibility of the germline manipulations that give us the power to manipulate the fertilized egg, the first cell in the embryo so that genetic changes could be copied in every cell of the future adult including his or her reproductive cells. Only a few elites would benefit and become GenRich. Humanity is on the verge of evolving into transhumans
Remaking Eden: Lee Silver 1977 How Genetic Engineering and Cloning will Transform the American Family
Published in 16 languages, Remaking Eden introduced the concept of "reprogenetics": the combined use of reproductive and genetic technologies not for the treatment of an existing medical affliction, but to enable prospective parents to choose which genes their children receive. Many potential reprogenetic applications could be viewed in a positive light when considered in terms of their impact on individual health and well- being.reprogenetics
However, Remaking Eden also spins out a speculative scenario of a dystopic future -- with the divergence of genetically enhanced GenRich and unenhanced naturals into separate species -- as a direct but unintended consequence of human nature and the principles of liberal democracy.
Remaking Eden also spins out a speculative scenario of a dystopic future -- with the divergence of genetically enhanced GenRich and unenhanced naturals into separate species -- as a direct but unintended consequence of human nature and the principles of liberal democracy.
World Transhumanist Association The Humanity+ (the World Transhumanist Association) is an international nonprofit membership organization which advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. We support the development of and access to new technologies that enable everyone to enjoy better minds, better bodies and better lives. In other words, we want people to be better than well.
Transhumanism Transhumanism is a way of thinking about the future that is based on the premise that the human species in its current form does not represent the end of our development but rather a comparatively early phase. We formally define it as follows:
Transhumanism The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. http://www.transhumanism.org/resources/faq.html
Posthuman It is sometimes useful to talk about possible future beings whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards. The standard word for such beings is “posthuman”.
Total Destruction of Life Complete Extinction of biotic life itself? War Biological, nuclear accident Terror Hunger, violence, revolt
Human Engineering 1. Introduction 2. Human Engineering a.The Science of Genetics b.The Computer Revolution c. The Tissue Culture d.The Economic Factors 3. The Promises & Perils of Genetic Engineering 4. Philosophical Analysis 5. Conclusion
Moral Issues Use of Stem Cell research Humans-Transhumans-Posthumans? Only for the Elite? Do they have a different kind of ethics than humans? Who owns life? What is its price?
Anthropological Issues Who are we? What is human nature? How emergent and pliable is human nature? “Every understanding is self- understanding.”
Philosophical Issues Who can speak for life? Who decides what our future should be? Who is responsible for life? Who can guarantee it?
Conclusion Benefits of genetic engineering are countless and the ethical implications of the same calls us to respond carefully and critically so that the choices that we make might protect the sacredness of every form of life.
And we are responsible for life… Evolution become conscious of itself. evolution become conscious of eliminating or enhancing itself.