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Genetic Engineering

"I do because I can." "Just because you can doesn't mean you should."
by

Claire Collins

on 21 April 2013

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Transcript of Genetic Engineering

Genetic Engineering Genetics Religion Ethics Process Agriculture Cloning Biomedics Transgenesis Environment Artificial Selection Industry Ethical Safety A – T
T – A
C – G
G – C Genetics are the blueprints of life. They contain instructions on how to create and maintain a body or any form of life. Not only do they determine your physical characteristics, they also play a large part in determining behavioural traits and diseases. Genes are passed down from your ancestors and contain a mix of traits from both your parents’ sides. As well as determine your species, they also determine the different range of genetic traits your species might carry. They decide whether you’re tall, your eye, skin and hair colour, what your body is capable of and whether you’re susceptible to certain diseases. They take the form of a long string of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and are found in every cell an individual has in their body. The nucleus (control center) of a cell contains 22 matching pairs of autosomes and two sex chromosomes, which comprise of DNA/genes. DNA takes form of a double helix consisting of sugar phosphate ‘backbones’ and nucleotides which form with sugar phosphate and one of four bases to form connections between the backbones. DNA contains the instructions on how your body is made and functions by supplying messenger RNA (another strand which reads the DNA and reproduces it) with an order of bases which determine how the protein of your body is created. There are four different bases: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). A only pairs with T and C only pairs with G. The order of these bases instructs the body on how to create protein, though the DNA sequence needs to be read by mRNA (messenger RNA) before the mRNA can travel to of the cell’s cytoplasm to meet to ribosomes. The DNA is read by the mRNA by unwinding itself and breaking apart each base when in contact with particular enzymes. The mRNA pairs up with each base in the same sequence with the exception that U pairs with T. The mRNA then travels out of the nucleus. Once the mRNA meets the ribosomes in the cytoplasm, the ribosomes read the nucleotide ‘code’ of the mRNA three bases at a time, known as a codon which instructs the cell to interact with a particular polypeptide chain. Such interactions can include adding another amino acid to the chain (of which there are 20 different kinds), stopping the chain or starting it. These polypeptide chains are simply long chains of amino acids in a specific order that combine with other structures to from a three dimensional structure of protein. These processes are called transcription and translation. It is within these processes that a majority of genetic engineering occurs. One of the largest branches of genetic engineering is known as transgenesis Transgenesis is a form of gene splicing that works by extracting genes from one animal and adding them to another. Considering that life is established and produced by the codon order, based off genes, modifying genes in one animal would have a domino effect and manufactured a being that has different capabilities to its original species. Transgenesis involves:
•Isolating genes
•Modifying genes
•Extracting genes
•Inserting genes There are three main ways of transferring genes via gene splicing: DNA microinjection, Retrovirus-Mediated Gene Transfer and Embryonic Stem Cell-Mediated Gene Transfer. Cloning is the creation of an organism that is the exact same of another, usually using the original organism’s genetics as a template. Other than the natural conception of twins, there are two ways to clone: artificial embryo twinning and somatic cell nuclear transfer. •Artificial embryo twinning uses the same approach as natural embryo twinning, with the exception that it occurs in a Petri dish rather than a body. A very young embryo is divided in the hopes that the two separate halves continue multiplying and forming an organism with the same genetics. After some development, the two embryos are placed in a surrogate mother where they are carried until the usual period of pregnancy. Since the delivered organisms came from the same zygote, they are genetically identical. •Somatic cell nuclear transfer uses a different method than artificial embryo twinning but still produces the same results. A somatic cell is any cell in the body other than the sex cells. To create a clone using this method, a somatic cell is taken and its nucleus is removed to be transplanted into an egg cell, making the new cell act as a freshly fertilised zygote. The zygote develops into an embryo and is then placed in a surrogate mother. This was the method used to create Dolly the Sheep. Genetic Engineering has potential to greatly increase both productivity and ability of the industry, in almost every aspect. As more is discovered within the area of biotechnology and more limits are tested within the capabilities of present day technology, more applications are discovered for genetic engineering within the industry. Over time, the Industry hopes to use genetic engineering to accomplish some of the following:

•Things that could benefit the environment such as less reliability on petroleum. Industries rely heavily on fossil fuels to fuel their manufacturing processes and to create many of their products. Fossil fuels can be incredibly expensive and aren’t renewable. Genetic engineering could provide alternative energy sources that are less environmentally expensive and renewable.

•Another possibility is finding less harsh chemicals to use in the manufacturing process. A solution to this would be to engineer proteins and enzymes to do the work of chemicals. This is both more environmentally friendly and renewable.

•Bacteria and microorganisms could also play a massive part in industry. As well as being able to do an amazing variety and amount of work, microorganisms and the like offer the potential to increase the limits of today’s technology and complete tasks that other, less dextrous processes are able to do. These microorganisms are capable of destroying oil slicks to cleaning up sites contaminated with toxic waste. Genetic engineering is of a massive benefit to fields such as medicine. Seeing as genetic engineering opens doors such as remodelling genes, transferring genes, tissue engineering, neural engineering, pharmaceutical engineering and bionics, all of which are used to create and study things like:
• Artificial organs
• Artificial bones
• Manufacturing sex cells
• Repairing, replacing and studying neural systems
• Developing new drugs
The technology that medical genetic engineering provides is predicted to greatly enhance the capabilities of doctors and save many lives.



3.The third group includes crops that encompass edible vaccines or medicine.
There are endless combinations and many uses for biotech organisms. While things like safer meat and slow ripening fruits are being engineered, some people have taken up BioArt, creating novelty items such a blue roses and glowing fish. With the technology of genetic engineering, it is possible to create biotech or genetically modified organisms (GMO.) These organisms can include that of food sources and as such, provide genetically modified food (GMF.) Being able to create genetically modified foods opens up an enormous amount of possibilities, many of them solving problems such as lack of farming space and hunger. A genetically modified crop is usually created using the manipulation of transgenesis, and in some cases with closely linked species, crossbreeding. Presently, there are three classifications of genetically modified crops. 1.The first classification includes crops that are protected from insects and/or herbicides. These traits can indirectly improve the harvest as the crops are protected against common dangers. 2.The second consists of crops that are more tolerant to weather conditions and have been modified to contain more nutritional value than they naturally would. Vitamin A rice is a great example of this. Being capable of modifying such a wide range of genes means that we are able to greatly improve an organism’s traits. This means that we can lower or raise the standard for a species as we wish, even creating a perfect human being, plant or animal. Selective breeding is the intentional breeding of organisms with a specific trait in mind. We now have the technology to foresee what traits two parents’ offspring will carry, whether that be looking at their genotype or studying their baby before it is born. As we expand the horizon of our genetic engineering capabilities, we also increase the chance that such practices will become more developed, common and manipulative of our environment. This presents the issue of when it is appropriate to apply genetic engineering to the environment and whether we should take the risk of producing undesirable outcomes Along with the ethical issues of genetic engineering, religion plays a large part as to why some people are against it. The main trepidation religion has with genetic engineering is that by changing the world around us via gene remodeling is ‘playing god.’ Considering that genetic engineering is a relatively new form of science, many of its dangers and potential threats are unknown. Some simple mistakes could occur that could result in unethical practices or a dangerous new species, potentially unbalancing our ecosystem. It may be as simple as a miscalculation from lack of experience that could result in dangerous new technology. The list below gives some potential unethical and unsafe scenarios.
•Imprecise Technology – Genetic Engineers manually extract and insert genes. The insertion of the gene is at random. As a consequence, there is a possibility that the insertion of the gene may disrupt functions vital to the life of that organism.
• Introducing New Genetic Tools – This could majorly affect and push the limits of what could and should be done. New genetic tools could cause an internationally malicious or an unexpected White Plague, causing massive loss of life.
•Unrestricted Technology – New technology that isn’t confined properly could result in biological warfare/terrorism taking on a whole new level with white plagues and other modified diseases. Terrorists or even entire countries could release a disease that has much more dire consequences than originally intended.
•Environment – On a different level, it poses a threat to the environment. Genetically engineered plants and animals could decimate the environment and disrupt the food chain, causing slower-acting but still long-lasting effects. Such changes would be similar to that of introducing foreign species to a native environment. The non-native species could easily take over and unbalance the food-chain. Evolution To have a thriving species, evolution is mandatory. In the pursuit of the perfect child, whether that is by reproductive medicine, gene and molecule therapy or selective breeding, many mutations may be prevented, creating a stagnant gene pool and almost no opportunity for natural development. This could halt evolution completely. Some serious issues must be taken into account when dealing with genetic engineering, a practice that has the potential to alter not only human beings, but the entire balance of the earth. Many issues with genetic engineering are is of a humane, religious or safety variety, such as whether we should discover/utilise technology and the repercussions of going ‘too far.’ Some of the concerns include:
• Governments struggling to develop policies to address both individuals’ conscious and beliefs, the scientific need and risks.
• Whether it is appropriate to take ‘life’ from one thing to help another. I.e. stem cells.
• Correctness of using ‘Chimeras’ to test on.
• Animal testing; participants unwilling and the practice potentially painful/ and/or unnecessary. Animals are considered to have just as much of a right as humans.
• Donors for sex cells, body parts, stem cells as hosts for other genes, both animal and human.
• Eugenics: Possibly blurring the line between what is ‘human’ by being able to create a baby of the parents’ choice.
• Potentially inhumane use of living things created out of genetic material. Flaws in their genetics may cause them to suffer and they may be given less rights to everyone else.
• Altering humans to make a perfect race.
• Genetically modified food could harm wildlife. For example, scientists have created a type of wheat that produces plastic. If this breed of wheat were to naturally cross-breed with another breed of wheat by accident, it could the poison herbivores that feed on it.
• Creation of new or worse viruses Risk assessment plays a large part in determining the outcome of genetic engineering. While there are many dangers, there is also a massive potential for an advance in science, medicine and agriculture that could be a part of increasing the well-being of the human population, the environment and our daily routines. Fin. A disquieting era of genetic manipulation is coming, one that may revolutionize human capacities, and notions of health. If we treat moral scruples impatiently, as inherently retrograde in a scientifically advancing civilization, we will not be in moral trim when, soon, our very humanity depends on our being in trim.

-- George F. Will
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