Untitled Essay, Research Paper
A Massive Project for the Benefit of Mankind:
A Look at the Human Genome Project??? Scientists are taking medical technology to new heights as they race to
map all of the genes, nearly 100,000, in the 23 chromosomes of the human body. Along the
way, they hope to understand the basis of, and maybe even develop methods of treating
certain genetic diseases, such as Alzheimer?s and Muscular Dystrophy. They plan to do
this by identifying the DNA sequence of an abnormal gene in which a disease originates and
comparing it with the data of a normal or healthy gene. The entire research project is
entitled “The Human Genome Project.”
??? “The Human Genome Project” is a large scale project being
conducted by more than 200 laboratories, with even more researchers and labs having joined
in. Most of the labs and researchers are located in France and the United States. The
project started in 1990 and was slated to take 15 years and cost $3 billion in U.S. money
for the entire project coming to roughly $200 million per year. Federal funding for the
project is nearly 60% of the annual need. This has created some funding problems for the
project. There also have been technological advances and discoveries that have helped to
speed up the project. This automation may help to reduce the cost and help the project to
meet its objectives ahead of schedule. The project was estimated to have detailed maps of
all of the chromosomes and know the location of most of the human Genes by 1996.
Researchers have successfully located the gene and DNA sequence for Huntington?s
Disease on Chromosome 4 and have created a genetic test to determine if a person carries
this gene. “The child of a person with Huntington’s has a 50% chance of inheriting
the gene, which inevitably leads to the disease.” Once an individual acquires the
gene, it is only a matter of time before they acquire the disease. Because the medical
costs of treating such persons in terminal illnesses are extremely high, insurance
companies who want to stay in business see this genetic test, and others like it, as an
opportunity to screen prospective clients for the probability of such diseases. Some
people feel that this information gives insurance companies unfair advantage over those
covered by medical insurance and point out that release of genetic information to
insurance companies puts a severe disadvantage on the person who is screened, as well as
violates the patients right to privacy. If this genetic information is not safegua
rded as confidential for the patient?s and doctor?s knowledge alone, then the
patient can be labeled as undesirable and the patient may not be able to receive insurance
coverage at any price. This also brings up other ethical questions. “Does genetic
testing constitute an invasion of privacy, and would it stigmatize those found to have
serious inborn deficiencies? Would prenatal testing lead to more abortions? Should anyone
be tested before the age of consent?”
Obviously, many genetic advancements are to come of this research. One biotechnology that
will benefit from genetic testing is genetic engineering. It too, may have many social
implications depending on what is created from such experimentation.
Gene Therapy is one “spin-off” that has greatly benefited Gene-mapping. It
utilizes genetic engineering to treat genetic disorders by “introducing genes into
existing cells to prevent or cure diseases” . Most of the methods are still in the
experimental stages and have yet to be approved by the FDA. One example would be in a
proposed treatment for a brain tumor. Scientists would take a herpes gene and splice it in
to a nonvirulent virus. Viruses and liposomes have an uncanny ability to navigate through
cell membranes. The virus is then placed into a laboratory animal to reproduce itself, and
after reproduction, is injected into the human?s brain tumor. The virus is supposed
to invade the tumor cells. Thus, the herpes enzyme will render the tumor vulnerable to
drugs used to cure herpes, killing the tumor, the virus, and the animals’ cells used to
manufacture the virus.
With this and other ideas springing out from the “medicine cabinet”, many
researchers are optimistic about the results of their research. There is also a direct
correlation of the sequencing of genes and production of effective drugs on diseases which
may have different strands of defective genes, such as Alzheimer?s. Locating these
genes would be crucial to synthesizing a product to affect that specific location in the
gene. The director of the gene-therapy program at the University of Southern California,
Dr. W. French Anderson states, “Twenty years from now, gene therapy will have
revolutionized medicine. Virtually every disease will have it as one of its
treatments.” Such an impact on medicine would take much longer to occur with
“hit and miss” tactics, rather than methodically mapping out the blueprint for
So whether we, as society, want to go forward in this research slowly, or with blazing
speed, scientists will go forward and do what they set out to do. The fact that this
research will benefit humanity is resounding, we just need to remember to handle our
findings in such a manner that benefits all of society, not just those on top of the
economical food chain. Also, persons should be able to decide for themselves if they can
handle knowing what their genetic flaws are. Sometimes knowing you will eventually be
afflicted by a disease can be as emotionally devastating as actually having the disease.
Some states have already enacted laws guarding the rights of individuals genetically
tested . The problem is that most only cover certain procedures and not all of the
testing. Whatever way we govern such testing, we have to realize, will be inefficient by
most standards, as government always is, in complicated situations. I feel that if genetic
information should be public knowledge, then every country using this genetic concept
should provide “blanket insurance” coverage for everyone at the same rate. This
would be the only fair action that would have the common person?s interest in mind,
although it is a socialist concept, people would not be discriminated against and it would
put everyone on a level playing field. Since I don?t see a comprehensive health care
plan in our horizon, we should consider making personal genetic information excluded from
insurance companies, the government, etc., except for the actual treatment of the patient,
which was the original reason that these tests were created. The
reason that I feel genetic information should be totally excluded from insurance companies
is this: Once genetic testing becomes widely available, it would be easy for an insurance
company to require people to submit to a genetic test before they could be covered. If the
person applying is found to be unfit, it could go on his or her insurance “medical
report”, such as a “credit report”, which would blacklist that person from
ever getting coverage. Obviously there is a need for governmental laws to prevent this
from happening. No one can control what genes they will get, and just because you have
“bad” genes doesn?t mean you are a “bad” person, thus no one
should be discriminated against due to these “weaknesses”. I personally feel
that the Human Genome Project is a great undertaking intended for the benefit of mankind.
There are many advances that have been made in treatments as well as the creation of
various machines that automate the process of gene mapping. Machines that may be used to
e study of other organisms. I just don?t trust the motives behind the insurance
companies who could unduly benefit from such testing. I feel that the individual?s
right to privacy should remain paramount, and that there should be laws set in motion to
prohibit a person from being discriminated against because of genetic predisposition.Bibliography
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