Human Germline Modification in the 21 st Century Naomi Neufeld
Designer baby: a foetus whose genotype has been purposefully selected through the use of reproductive and genetic technology. The utilization of such technology for medical means is properly called human germline therapy when germline therapy is used for non-medical purposes, such as improving intelligence or appearance, it is often referred to as human germline enhancement http://media.ntvmsnbc.c om/j/NTVMSNBC/Compo nents/ArtAndPhoto- Fronts/Sections- StoryLevel/.hmedium.jpg
There are two main types of cells in the body: somatic cells and germline cells. The human body comprises mainly of somatic cells which carry out the normal functions of the body The sex cells are referred to as germline cells. This means that if human germline modification was conducted on a subject, the changes would be passed on to future generations. http://media.ntvmsnbc.c om/j/NTVMSNBC/Compo nents/ArtAndPhoto- Fronts/Sections- StoryLevel/.hmedium.jpg
Scientists speculate that reproductive technology such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) would be used This would involve extracting germ cells from the parents and screening them for desirable genetic traits before implanting the foetus into the womb. Some scientist envision inserting certain genes into the embryo in order to correct certain disorders or to confer desirable traits to the foetus. http://www.medicine.mcgill.ca/mjm/v03n02/v 03p126/v03p126fgr1.gif
By identifying and modifying the defective genes using germ line therapy at a very early stage of the pregnancy, doctors may be able to remove the disease completely from the child’s DNA resulting in a healthy child The germ line cells of the child would also be modified, ensuring that any offspring are safe from the disease. The family would no longer be affected by the hereditary mutation Better option for parents than repeated abortion or the labours and agony of raising ill child http://www.babble.com/CS/blogs/strollerderby /2009/01/cancer-free-baby-born.jpg
Greater longevity may even be attainable by modifying genes to promote better human health and possibly identifying and changing genes that affect the rate of aging. The ability to genetically modify a person’s DNA could also act as a new type of vaccine or antibiotic Could lead to a cure for AIDS or cancer
These ideas are frowned upon by some scientists and theologians who believe that extracting embryos and destroying them or not utilizing them is sinful. This notion relates to the religious controversy concerning the soul of an embryo. Some scientists worry about the possibility that experimentation may go awry and new deadly mutations or diseases could be engineered http://www.gate2biotech.com/ima ges/clanky_clanky/dna_708.jpg
By use of germ line therapy, scientists could equip human offspring with genes to enhance appearance, increase intelligence, promote athletic ability, encourage desirable personality traits and increase longevity. Some people hope that in the future, germ line enhancement would become available to all mankind and a utopian society would be established. Many believe the choice of genetic enhancement should be available to parents, as most only want to ensure the best possible life for their child. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ nIWiKIscZJY/SX- YfL0KxTI/AAAAAAAABq M/wPhAEVMTFGU/s400/ smart-baby1.jpg
Several ethicists speculate that if enhancement became available to the public, only those wealthy enough to afford it could purchase the genes for their offspring Could lead to an even greater division between the wealthy and poor Infringe on the freedom of the foetus and all subsequent generations http://img221.images hack.us/img221/672/ splitpb5.jpg The human race could eventually divide into two different branches: one with superb genotypes and the other with bad genotypes
Some theologians believe that god intends mankind to surpass the boundaries of nature and take control of human evolution God equipped humans with the capacity for deep reasoning, intelligent thinking and inquiry. http://www.post- gazette.com/pg/images/200708/20070828BizReligion_dm_500.jpg
Many theologians feel that if scientists began to self direct evolution and interfere with nature, they would be taking God’s power into human hands and possibly invoking his wrath. A few religions believe the soul of a person is born when the egg is fertilized. The modification and waste of embryos which occurs during the process of germline therapy is considered murder by many http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegroun duploads/pope_350.jpg
The debate is now: the decision whether to proceed with germ line therapy is upon the shoulders of this generation. The people of the 21 st century may be the first pioneers in self-directed human evolution and the eradication of disease. The technology and knowledge is at scientist’s finger tips right now; mankind has the ability to commence experiments in germ line modification as soon as it is approved. The outcome of this current debate will influence and determine the fate of all mankind.
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