Use of Animals in Genetic Engineering

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Genetic diseases shackle the lives of millions of people every day. The last few decades yielded the breakthrough technology needed to eradicate these crippling diseases. Animals possess the innate ability to model diseases in a similar fashion as humans, allowing scientists to research and find cures for genetic diseases without experimenting on humans. Genetically engineering animals warrants advancement because of its ability to help cure diseases impacted by genetics regardless of the ethical problems involved. Genetically manipulating animals to benefit genetically impacted disease research precipitates a wealth of benefits to mankind and impacts countless lives for the better. In the past an aspect of risk presided in the practice of genetic engineering, but recent technological advancements nullify this concern. Popular media covers animal testing and experimentation within the realm of genome manipulation as headlining news; however, the actual results that come from the research garner less attention and need to be shared more often. If more people knew about the benefits, their development of appreciation and understanding concerning the importance of animal genome engineering would increase. Very often ethical arguments overshadow the obvious assets; yet, clear, rational deliberation proves these arguments petty and ignorant.

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        Research and treatment development of genetically impacted diseases amasses billions of dollars toward research every year, proving its importance. Genetic disease diagnosis rates increase with an aging population; therefore, with life expectancy trending upwards, diseases will continually burden the economy and personal interests (Mintzer). Dementia becomes more prevalent as people age. A study by the Alzheimer’s Association concludes the overall cost of dementia will rise above $20 trillion by 2052 (Yang 1661). That by itself deserves recognition capable of changing people’s minds on the subject.  Another popular disease affected by genetics is breast cancer caused by a gene mutation. At age 70, people with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations exhibit a 45-65% chance of developing breast cancer.(Inherited Gene Mutations). The lifetime chance of others without the gene developing breast cancer resides near seven percent. Capri and Russo outlined the average cost of breast cancer per person in the first two years following diagnosis. This study included 12,580 patients and concluded that the average cost reached about $12,500 (Capri).

Hundreds of thousands of people wasting $12,500 every year on a nearly preventable health issue merits consideration about why groups advocate against using the quickest route towards a cure. Growing old puts people at risk for developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as well. Diagnosis of this disease most commonly occurs from forty to seventy years of age. Sufferers die within two to five years after diagnosis in the majority of cases. Experts from multiple hospitals and medical colleges released a study in 2015 outlining the socioeconomic impact of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Monetary spending gets seperated into groupings based on the stage of the disease and then divides into patient or government spending. All findings correlate with cost per month. Second stage ALS requires $5181, third stage $7089, and the final stage $10557 per month. Averaging the stages together culminates in an average of $7902. The government paid twenty seven point six percent of the total, while the patient paid the other seventy two point four percent (Oh 206). Based off these results a full year’s expenditure lands at $94824. Assuming the patient lives an average life of three years after diagnosis, the total then becomes $284472. In that scenario the government spends $78514. Since around five thousand people get diagnosed with ALS every year in the United States of America, a generally accepted number of sufferers at any given time in the US equates to twenty thousand. Twenty thousand patients costing $94824 each amounts to $1,896,480,000 of treatment each year in the United States alone. Introducing such an amount of money into schooling or the community instead of medical institutions creates new beneficial opportunities for everyone.

Diseases that affect people starting at birth also cause social and economic stress. Delving into specific diseases reveals shocking information. Monetary tolls cannot be avoided without the patient suffering and dying, as seen in cystic fibrosis victims. Money spent on cystic fibrosis gets divided into two branches according to a study set in the United Kingdom. Direct healthcare and indirect costs assume the roles of the separate branches. Direct healthcare includes caregiver wages, medications, hospital visits, and primary doctor appointments. Productivity loss in terms of retracted work availability topped the list of most prominent factors accounting for indirect costs. The total estimated annual expenditure per each cystic fibrosis inflicted patient converged at about fifty-thousand US dollars. Median costs differentiated by over fifteen thousand US dollars between adults and children (Angelis). Haemophilia, an inherited blood clotting disorder, requires a high economic price tag throughout a patients life. Treatment costs for older adults nearly reached three hundred thousand dollars. The recommended medical treatment, prophylaxis, actually generates a more expensive plan than alternative regiments, possibly increasing patient expenditure by over one hundred thousand dollars (Shrestha 271).

Complete lifetime earnings of an average American is around one million dollars, so the price tag on haemophilia treatment drastically impacts all middle-to-low class families and workers required to make the payments. Disregarding money, genetic based disabilities lower the life expectancy of the affected patient. The death of patients with Huntington’s Disease typically comes within thirty years of diagnosis (Huntington’s Disease). Likewise, down syndrome lowers life expectancy down to 60 years (Facts About Down Syndrome). Children harboring a mutation in the Hex-A gene become afflicted with Tay Sachs disease. Tay Sachs progressively damages the nervous system until the patients end up unable to crawl, walk, or even sit up. Death usually occurs by the age of five (Learning About Tay-Sachs Disease). The outlook on people with cystic fibrosis culminates to a life expectancy of only thirty-seven years with regard to those who survived into adulthood (Cystic Fibrosis: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia). Those affected by the Niemann-Pick Type A disease die in infancy, while Type C patients live to adulthood in rare cases (Niemann-Pick Disease). The accepted life expectancy worldwide drastically deviates from these stats as it ranges from seventy-five to eighty years. Ignoring statistics such as ones previously stated based on personal complaints baffles those thinking logically. Genetically modifying animals provides the means of extinguishing the negative effects from numerous popular diseases, and the tools experts use currently elicit the necessity of its own use. 

New technology ensures the safety of genetic engineering. The most groundbreaking advancement in this field, CRISPR-Cas9, also known as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, replicates a technique bacteria neutralize viruses with. A protein snips off RNA from the invading virus and then incorporates that into its own DNA. The bacterium recognizes similar viruses in the future and produces proteins based off of the incorporated RNA to attack the viruses and render them useless (How Does Gene Therapy Work). The Cas-9 protein cuts DNA in the area that matches with the RNA sequence guiding it. Engineering this function to work in human cells garners little difficulty. RNA that matches its nucleotides with a specific mutated gene gets implanted into the Cas-9 protein and doctors insert the protein into human cells. Once the protein dislodges the incorrect nucleotide sequence from the original gene, the cell’s natural repairative qualities pair up correct nucleotides in its place. Gene editing technology continually becomes safer for humans as well as animals. The invention of Zinc Finger Nuclease, or ZFN, gene editing technology occured over ten years before the invention of CRISPR-Cas9 technology. ZFN carried the possibility of an incorrect target, unlike CRISPR-Cas9, and the United States regulatory authorities deemed ZFN allowable for human clinical trials.(Fernandez). CRISPR technology lacks the ability to target an incorrect nucleotide sequence and precipitate any unwanted consequences. If ZFN was approved for clinical trials in humans, surely safer and more precise technology requires application in animals for the benefit of genetic disease research (Fernandez 240).

Undoubtedly, genetic engineering is the best tool humans possess to research and cure genetic impacted health problems. Selecting the best candidate for testing and manipulation plays an important role in the full process. Non-cavy rodents stipulate the title of the most commonly known lab testee. Hundreds of mutated mice and rat strains exist already. The majority of these strains embody genetic disease mutations, creating an avenue to study its progression. Specific examples of the diseases being modeled include: various forms of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, metabolic and hormonal disorders, diabetes, weight growth factors, osteoporosis, glaucoma, sickle cell, blindness, sensorineural deafness, neurodegenerative disorders, psychiatric disturbances, and birth defects. Searching for someone whose life avoids the influence of any one of the listed diseases promises an exhausting and laborious task. No positives result from the introduction of harmful maladies. Certain mental or cognitive symptoms present throughout the course of disease habitation fail to appear in mice like they appear in humans, which hinders medical research (Simmons 70). Danielle Simmons, Ph.D states, 

One reason that mouse models might not completely mimic human disorders is that mice simply might not be capable of expressing some cognitive human disease symptoms that are apparent to the observer. Species capable of expressing the majority of human cognitive symptoms rarely enter laboratory settings. Primates qualify as one of these species. The largest percent of test-ready simians benefit research on Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s Disease is one of the most popular neurodegenerative diseases in humans. Blesa brings to light that, Although the complete PD disease process is not yet understood, we have gained a better understanding of its etiology, pathology, and molecular mechanisms, thanks to various animal models. Primates duplicate complex phenotypes shown in humans suffering from Parkinson’s. Motor skill delays, cognitive mental impairment, sleep schedule disturbances, and involuntary movements appear in primate models. The necessity of studying those symptoms adds to the case supporting manipulating apes and monkeys. The expert neuroscientist Dr. Javier Blesa supports primate testing in the remark, Only nonhuman primates accurately mimic the motor expression of PD, in our opinion, these are the only animals that are optimal for such studies  mouse models for instance fail to replicate symptomatic manifestation of PD (Blesa 4). In-vitro animal cell experimentation provides an alternative to using live animal models. These models technically contain live animal tissue and cells; however, the cells grow into a small bodily system called an organoid. Quickly assuming all tests should therefore preside in organoid models derives from a lack of information. Greenfield clarifies a similar opinion in the statement, the development and functioning of organs within a greater whole, a physiological system, cannot be replicated without using whole animals (Greenfield 391). Aesculapian breakthroughs develop from the application of screening and modeling selected animals in laboratories throughout the world.

Experts employ safe practices to develop therapies and medicines based off engineered species such as mice, primates, and organoids. CRISPR gene editing poses as an important tool in the development of new drugs. This new technology facilitates creation of animals perfectly suited to speed up drug discovery and non-human biomedical trials. For instance, some cancer cells resist the influence of drugs better than others. Cloning these resistant cancer cells in living animals lets scientists search for the genes present in cancer that affect resistance. Drug developers then work to establish drugs capable of bypassing the effects of the genes accredited with resistance (Cully 576).

The professional chemist, Derek Lowe, Ph.D, estimates the average cost of bringing a new drug to market tips above two billion US dollars (Lowe).  The CRISPR system significantly relieves the economic burden on pharmaceutical companies and government agencies. Drug development using past methods costs more and extends the amount of time needed. Wasting time and money yields only disadvantages, especially concerning the government providing wages, healthcare, and schooling to millions. Many laboratories accomplish successful research discerning genes integral to disease and virus survival. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute proved that leukemia cells die without the functions spurred by the METTL3 gene. Feng Zhang’s laboratory performed the first use of CRISPR on humans cells, reinforcing their professional and respected reputation. That same laboratory works on developing treatment for the BRAF gene mutation observed in multiple forms of cancer. (Almeida). The BRAF V600E mutation presents itself in many types of cancer including colorectal cancer and melanoma (BRAF (V600E) Mutation). When medicine and therapies evolve from the work carried on by Zhang’s lab and other labs, they come to market and improve the lives of persons inflicted by the various diseases scientists wish to eradicate.

The information and points provided until this mark prove moot without the confrontation of the voices raised in opposition of genetically engineering animals for biomedical gain. The ethical arguments raised are not deserving of lasting recognition or serious consideration. A current controversy regards the number of subjects killed in the process of experimentation employing genetic manipulation. In the past, scientists bred rats in large quantities to produce a smaller amount of rats with the desired allele (Greenfield 388). Genetically engineering rats to exhibit the allele inevitably results in a smaller population. Formulating correct mutations in any animal with perfect precision eliminates the slaughter of inadequate test subjects. Secondly, many animal rights activists claim the living conditions of laboratory animals fall short of humane classification (Schultz-Bergin 850).

Blind chickens suffer less anxiety and psychological issues when they cannot see other chickens around them; therefore, blueprinting blind chickens solves the issue of overcrowding. Modifying chicken breeds to not desire parental protection and bonding completely removes the stress and anxiety that regularly irritates mother hens in that specific realm. Also, the dehorning of cattle draws a lot of attention in animal welfare debates, but altering genetic code to develop hornless cattle generates a solution to that problem. Creating a valid argument not solvable by genetic engineering proves a difficult endeavor. Another faceless argument demands animals stay removed from diminishment because it relieves them of their integrity. Diminishing animals does not harm an organism, but simply brings a less biological complex organism into existence. Schultz-Bergin states, an animal’s dignity consists in the uninhibited development of its species-specific functions. Development of a genetically diminished animal creates a new species with its own set of species-specific functions. AMLs, also referred to as animal microcephalic lumps, lack enough brain stem to assume consciousness which consequently makes it impossible to feel pain or experience negative stimuli. Their brain stems provide for nothing except biological growth (Schultz-Bergin 852).

Genetic engineering using living, non-human testees grants a gateway towards the cessation of genetically impacted diseases. The extermination of the targeted diseases requires accomplishment to increase of the health of humans worldwide and eliminate the need to pay for treatments. Scientists employing the most recent technology carry out meticulous experiments in a safe manner leading to: innovative drugs, gene screening, and important disease modeling research. Denial of these reasons due to the ethical considerations addressed shows a lack of logic and reason. The pinnacle of genetic engineering still waits far into the future, as inevitable refinements and inventions will bolster the reputation and necessity of this practice. No method exists in the present capable of conquering the abominations that are genetic diseases  better than selective genome composition.

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Use Of Animals In Genetic Engineering. (2019, Nov 12). Retrieved June 4, 2023 , from

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