What Is Human Genetic Engineering?

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Human Genetic Engineering 

Human Genetic Engineering is a very technical process that requires precision and perfection. So what is Human Genetic Engineering?

   Human Genetic Engineering is the process of altering the DNA in an organisms genome (What is Genetic Engineering, par. 1). Linda Tagliaferro says in her book Genetic Engineering: Progress or Peril? that Genetic Engineering is called gene slicing or gene cloning (a gene is a unit of heredity that is transferred from a parent to offspring and is held to determine some characteristic of the offspring). She also says, by changing the genes of an organism, scientists can give the organism and it’s descendants different traits. This means that they can create different traits to the ideal look of how they want it. Genetic Engineering by means of other sources is defined as changing at least one base pair and pretty much getting rid of DNA or making another copy of a gene. Like anything in this world, Human Genetic Engineering has two sides of it. Bad and good. This means it can have a lot of faults and a lot of benefits.

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   When I think about Human Genetic Engineering, the first thought that comes to my head is making humans. Even though that’s not really accurate, it is still at some level correct. Human Genetic Engineering is not making humans but it is modifying them. It can remove diseases from your body, and it can cure cancer (hasn’t been done yet but scientists are working on it). Human Genetic Engineering has never been about fixing the world but solving small problems that can help the world. I do not necessarily agree with Human Genetic Engineering, but I do think that some of the things scientists are hoping to do will help out the world a bit. For one, I believe that there are more dangers than benefits. Stephen Hawkings said with Genetic Engineering, we will be able to increase the complexity of our DNA, and improve the human race. But it will be a slow process, because one will have to wait about 18 years to see the effect of changes to the genetic code. It is almost a waste of time pretty much because normally you get the Genetic Engineering done to relieve diseases or cancer. But by then it will have spread throughout your body and you’ll most likely be dead already. Another thing is there is the possibility something could go terribly wrong.

    When I say something could go wrong, what I mean is that this process isn’t secure yet and needs a bit more research. If something needs more experience and research, it’s not wise to go testing it out on human lives. The main thing that worries me is that the cells can mutate causing a mutation of some kind. Mutations can lead to deformities of the skin, brain, organs, and even the way the body works. It can possibly make someone go handicapped if possible (hasn’t been tested yet, but honestly let’s keep it that way). On the other hand, Human Genetic Engineering can do good as well. The types of diseases it can cure vary. Some diseases it can cure are HIV, forms of genetic blindness, hypercholesterolemia, Sickle-cell anemia, and Hemophilia.

   HIV, also known as human immunodeficiency virus, is just one of the diseases Human Genetic Engineering can supposedly cure. It is a sexually transmitted disease that can last for years. This condition cannot be cured, but scientists are trying to use Genetic Engineering to hopefully cure the disease for good. HIV is rare only affecting 200,000 people a year in the entire world. That’s very little considering there are billions of people on this earth. The way they are trying to cure this is by getting physicians to edit a patient’s immune cells to delete the CCR5 gene, making the resistance to HIV carried by the 1% of the US population lacking functional copies of this gene (Eric S. Lander).

    Another disease Human Genetic Engineering can probably cure is some forms of genetic blindness. One form of this blindness is called Leber congenital amaurosis. LCA begins in the infant ages and slowly progresses into adulthood. People who have this disease will be completely blind by the time of adulthood. There are no treatments available for this disease which is awful because 1 in 80,000 people are affected by this disease. With Human Genetic Engineering there has been a new gene therapy that has allowed some of the people with this disease to be able to see and navigate in a maze with little light. I have hope that this new gene therapy will help loads of people with LCA.

    Hypercholesterolemia is a condition where someone has really high cholesterol in their blood. It is very common, more than 3 million cases every year. Can be treatable but not cured. It can last years and can be, in some cases, lifelong. Cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease and heart disease is the number one leading death in America. Eric S. Lander believes that editing the liver cells can fix the inherited condition. This may be a risky process but everything you do has its risks.

    Sickle-cell anemia, also called sickle-cell disease, is when your red  blood cells are misshapen and they start to break down.  People who have sickle-cell anemia have unnatural hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that takes oxygen all over the body. This protein is one of the most important proteins in your blood. This disease is rare and cannot be cured. It can be very painful and can have external and permanent damage to the organs. Lander believes that editing blood stem cells could cure this disease.

    One more is Hemophilia. Hemophilia is another blood disorder where the blood is unable to clot and can cause large amounts of severe bleeding. It is thankfully rare but still effects less than 200,000 a year. This is also an incurable condition. Lander again says that this disease can possibly be cured by editing the blood stem cells. I really hope that scientists figure out how to cure Hemophilia because it is a very serious condition that I would hate having. Fun fact: Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia (from The Royal Diaries: Anastasia, the Last Grand Duchess), had Hemophilia.

    Human Genetic Engineering can possibly also get rid of illnesses in unborn and young children. Doctors can tell if your baby has any illnesses or diseases before they are even out of the womb. Two main diseases they scan spot is Sickle-cell amnesia and Down Syndrome. As we already discussed what sickle-cell amnesia is, Down Syndrome is far worse a condition. Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused when unnatural cell division comes up in full or partial copies of chromosome 21. This extra genetic material causes the developmental and physical changes and features of Down syndrome. It has no cure so far but with Genetic Engineering, all that could change. If you genetically modify the baby before it is born, it could have no health problems and could be perfectly healthy. As awesome as that sounds, it still worries me because it could be a very dangerous process that could possibly kill the baby. If someone is willing to take that chance, then go ahead. My personal thought is that I would not go through with the decision to genetically modify my child. Even if it was something people do all the time, and worked, I would still say no to genetic modification to a child.

    Another thing Human Genetic Engineering can possibly do is give humans the potential to live longer. Scientists are saying that with Human Genetic Engineering they can make the average life span for humans from 79 to a much older age. They are hoping to get the average age up to 85 or older. With genetic engineering, we could reverse some of the reasons for the body’s natural decline on a cellular level, drastically improving both the life span of humans and the quality of life later on.

    Now right now Human Genetic Engineering probably sounds awesome, right? Wrong. Human Genetic Engineering is as bad as it is good. When Genetic Engineering first became possible, most of the peoples first thoughts were if it was right or not. Many religions are against Human Genetic Engineering. One of these religions is Christianity. For those who know nothing about Christianity, it is a religion with one God in three different forms: the Holy Spirit, the Son, and the Father. The Father sent the Son to die for our sins and the Son left us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is everywhere and anytime someone is saved the Holy Spirit then comes into them and keeps them from being the way they used to be. They will still sin but be conscious about it. Now, the Father created the heavens and the earth, so therefore he creates the people and the plants and the animals. With Human Genetic Engineering, it’s pretty much altering the DNA that God created. So, it would be like we are playing God in a sense.

    Another thing that is negative about Human Genetic Engineering is that if they cured all diseases, then death wouldn’t be as frequent and therefore overpopulating the planet. Even with these diseases the earth is overpopulated so imagine the world without them. More than 3 million people die a year from illnesses. We would have an extra 3 million people in the world. There’s already billions of people and that’s already more than we need, so 3 million extra would be way too many people. Conserve Energy Future says From solving these problems, it can create more problems down the road that we cannot predict.

    Human Genetic Engineering can also cause defects in Genetics. Scientists do not know the full extent of the human body. There are probably a bunch of things scientists don’t know about the human body yet, so if they change the cellular structure of something to cure an illness, what happens if they introduce something else far more dangerous? Scientists cannot predict everything that could go wrong.

    Another thing is Human Genetic Engineering can limit genetic diversity. Most gene therapies are only available for the rich. Human Genetic Engineering would most likely only be given to the rich so the rich would live longer and the people who are not and that do the small but important jobs will not get to live longer. Rich people don’t want to do the small jobs that keep this world going like plumbers, janitors, crossing guards, etc. Those people who have those jobs will eventually die out while all the rich and genetically modified people will be left.

    Conserve Energy Future says that people can take Human Genetic Engineering too far. There are many scientists that want to use Genetic Engineering for good, like curing diseases and illnesses, but there are also scientists that want to use it to make designer babies, children whose hair color, eye color, height and intelligence is determined by us, and my least favorite is engineering the sex of the baby. I believe that if we engineer the sex of a baby then it will give the baby health problems and their emotional state will not be happy but depressed. I believe depression will increase more than it already has. Humans are supposed to be mysterious creatures. People shouldn’t be able to even get close enough in technology to engineer human genders. Transgenders are already a step too far. Fun fact: (not really fun but a side fact) In China, it is much more preferable to have a boy. Girls are not allowed to take over the family business, so they need a boy in every family to take over the business after the eldest man dies. With Human Genetic Engineering people in China will find a way to genetically engineer the sex of of their babies to be a boy.

    The problems with Genetic Engineering going too far are a present worry in a world in which genetic engineering is progressing further and further every day. To some this sound amazing and a vast improvement. To others (like myself), it does not. My note for you is to research and build your own opinions.

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