The future of medicine relies on the viability of genetically modified organisms. Scientists have turned to animals because there is a growing list of people who need an organ transplant and viable organs that are available are also at a shortage. The organs of these animals are able to be genetically modified through using CRISPR/Cas9 and used in xenotransplantation, the transplanting of organs between species. In nature, CRISPR is a prokaryotic immune system that resists foreign genetic materials (Rodriguez, E. 2016). CRISPR/Cas9 is a gene editing technology that allows scientists to alter pieces of the DNA sequence of the organism. In the lab, scientists can create a short segment of gRNA that binds to a specific location in a DNA sequence. This gRNA can also bind to the cas9 enzyme so that it can cut out the chosen DNA. CRISPR technology is then used to add in a customized piece of DNA to the open spot, thereby changing the genome of the animal. The main challenge with using CRISPR comes from the possibility of introducing abnormal edits, which could lead to the death of cells or mutations. On the other hand, the pig has been chosen as the best possible organ donor because the function and sizes of its major organs are similar to those in humans.
The societal views on genetically modified organisms being used as organ donors comes down to two critiques; the consequentialist and the deontological (Manesh S. et al. 2014). The consequentialist viewpoint can be further divided into biocentrism and anthropocentrism (Manesh S. et al. 2014). The consequentialist view focuses on the consequences of using transgene organs, while the deontological view focuses on the xenotransplantation itself, regardless of the consequences it may bring. Biocentrism deals with the problem from a viewpoint of the animal, while anthropocentrism deals with the problem from a human viewpoint. The lack of scientific knowledge on xenotransplantation and the effects of gene editing leads the utilization of this technology to be labeled as unethical due to the potential risks for both humans and animals. Humans could be subject to organ rejection, which could lead to further complications concerning the immune system and animals could be subject to suffering during the many years of research.
One of the main criticisms coming from the deontological perspective is that scientists are playing God, which is unorthodox. The scientists who research transgenic organisms are, in reality, creating something that has never existed before, especially not in nature. The authors of one article call it “passing from being a creation to a creator” (Manesh S. et al. 2014).
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