The Effects of Genetic Research in the Modern World
Stephanie Mendoza Biological Anthropology 101 Professor Deanna Heikkinen 06 October 2010 The Effects of Genetic Research in the Modern World What makes the human genome so incredibly fascinating? Is it the thousands of genetic sequences of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) or the fact that all life is specified by genomes? Or could it be the fact that a genome contains the building blocks of life and without it, life would not exist as it is at this very moment? These are the types of questions that spark the interest in the human genome and genetic research.
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From the beginning of time, scientists have always shown great interest in the whereabouts of the human species, being that the human species are the most complex organisms living to this present day. Who wouldn’t want to know more about oneself, especially if it could be beneficial to obtain that knowledge? Why are human beings so complex? Why do humans behave the way they do? Why do individuals have different skin colors or hair or heights and sizes? All of these questions and more are answered through the help of genetic research.
Genetic research plays both a positive and negative role in the world today. Through genetic research, the entire human genome was deciphered, revealing the mystery of the composition of human beings and life itself. But the question is what the effects of genetic research are in these modern times? The answer is both simple and complex. Genetic research has caused a heated debate in the modern world today between religious faith traditions and scientists, an ongoing battle since the time of Darwin. Once again the issue of creation versus evolution stands on trial.
The effects of genetic research in the modern world are both positive and negative. The positive effects genetic research provides are advances in molecular medicine, energy sources and environmental applications, and better insight in bio archaeology, anthropology, evolution, and human migration (“Human Genome Project”). The negative effects genetic research provides are controversial and ethical debates, ecological issues caused by new organisms created through genetic engineering, and the unpredictability of the effects and consequences of genetic engineering.
Through the help of genetic research, molecular medicine has advanced further than one’s mind can imagine. With the rapid advancement of molecular medicine, scientists have discovered ways to isolate and find genetic viruses or diseases that can react negatively in the human body and have found ways to destroy them or treat them ahead of time before they can become detrimental or even fatal. Scientists have also improved the diagnosis of diseases through the help of genetic research by being able to determine possible future diseases a person may have based on their genes (“Human Genome Project”). In the past, the genetic basis of a medical condition was something that was unusually diagnosed or considered after the diseases had manifested itself,” (Stanford, Allen, and Anton 76). Genetics has also allowed scientists the opportunity to create custom drugs based on individual genetic profiles, which could enhance the chance of recovery for the individual. This discovery has allowed numerous individuals a chance at survival especially if their body rejects the common drugs utilized by others in the same condition (“Human Genome Project”).
Genetics plays a large role in microbial genomics as well. Microbial genomics has been proven to be beneficial to all life forms, as it pertains to positive advancements in energy and ecological conservation. ”Microbes, which make up most of the earth’s biomass, have evolved for some 3. 8 billion years. They have been found in virtually every environment, surviving and thriving in extremes of heat, cold, radiation, pressure, salt, acidity, and darkness. Often in these environments, no other forms of life are found and the only nutrients come from inorganic matter.
The diversity and range of their environmental adaptations indicate that microbes long ago “solved” many problems for which scientists are still actively seeking solutions,” (“Microbial Genomics”). Microbial genomics allows scientists and researchers to rapidly detect and treat pathogens, develop new energy sources such as biofuels, monitor environments to detect pollutants such as CO2 levels, clean up toxic waste safely and efficiently, and protect citizenry from biological and chemical warfare (“Human Genome Project”).
All of these aspects are beneficial to the Earth and all living organisms that reside on it, including human beings, because the more advancement in microbial genomics there are, the better the chances for survival on Earth for future generations. Genetic research has proven beneficial to the research and studies of bio archaeologists, anthropologists, evolution, and human migration. “Understanding genetics is critical to understanding evolutionary phenomena such as adaptation and the biological histories of populations and species,” (Stanford, Allen, and Anton 50).
Over the years, biological anthropologists have used a variety of molecular genetics techniques, such as DNA sequencing and anatomy, to study the natural history of people and other primates (Stanford, Allen, and Anton 50). Through the use of genetic research scientists have been able to determine the genetic makeup of species from thousands and thousands of years ago and determine aspects of these organisms such as lifestyle, feeding habits, population geography, anatomy and physiology, and evolutionary references.
Genetics allows scientists to study evolutionary relationships and achieve a better understanding of the past and what happened during those times. “One of the most striking examples of the power of modern genetic science is the recovery of DNA from the fossil remains of long-dead organisms,” (Stanford, Allen, and Anton 32). Through the use of techniques such as protein electrophoresis and DNA hybridization, scientists are able to compare protein or DNA structures of different species without actually having to determine the amino acid or base pair sequences.
These types of techniques help fill in the gaps for scientists when studying past species or skeletal remains of past species such as Australopithecus or other species from the genus Homo. By having the ability to compare genetics of species, scientists are able to piece together the evolutionary puzzle of life. Genetics is the basis of the ability for human beings to get a look into the past and by studying the past, human beings can better understand possible future outcomes.
Although genetic research provides numerous positive effects, it has also been the cause of several negative effects as well. One of these negative effects being heated debate over controversial and ethical issues such as cloning and the idea of “playing God” in the views of creationists. With new finds in genetic engineering, scientists are able to engineer new organisms or bacteria or even organs through the use of stem cells and genetics. For some, ideas such as cloning and genetically engineering fetuses to have the genes that one would feel is best fit are unethical and highly debatable.
Some claim that by tampering with what life is supposed to be, scientists are now attempting to “play God” and human beings are no more than biological engineers or programmers. Once again the religiously faith fight back science with claims such as “If we were created in God’s image then what gives you the right to tamper with it? ” (Shirley Avon). In the case of cloning, many people find cloning to be unethical especially in the case of human reproductive cloning considering the poor survival rate of cloned individuals from other mammal species (Stanford, Allen, and Anton 34).
People also find the use of stem cells as unethical as the stem cells are derived from fetuses in the blastocyst stage which some consider as “life” and thus utilizing them for scientific purposes is murder. Debates such as these appear in science all the time, but the question is when it comes to science, is there a border line that should not be crossed? When it comes to science, is there a point where one must say stop? Another issue that genetics presents is ecological issues caused by organisms created through genetic engineering.
Ecological issues such as over competition for resources can be caused by organisms created through genetic engineering such as cloned mammals. The changes that a genetically engineered species would make on the environment of a region are unpredictable. “Just like an exotic species, the release of a new genetically engineered species would also have the possibility of causing an imbalance in the ecology of a region. An accident or an unknown result could present several problems.
An accident in engineering the genetics of a virus or bacteria could result in a stronger type, which, if released, could start a serious epidemic. Even worse, accidents in human genetic engineering could cause problems ranging from minor medical problems, to death,” (“Disabled World”). Possibilities such as these are feared by people against genetic research. Genetic engineering has provided beneficial aspects but like many other things the outcomes of genetic engineering are still unpredictable and the consequences unknown.
For some, something that is so unpredictable is hard to accept and see in a positive view because of fear of all the things that could go wrong. Like many things, science is about trial and error and it is up to the individual to decide whether genetic research and engineering are beneficial to life or not. In conclusion, genetic research has both positive and negative effects on the modern world today. The potential genetic research possesses is quite stammering and only further research and study could show the direction genetic research can go in.
Individuals are affected by genetic research differently depending on the views of the individual. Some see both the benefits and downfalls of genetic research and accept it for what it is while others choose to only side with one, either positive or negative. In all, genetic research, like many other things, is a two-edged sword. The choice and opinion is left to the individual. Works Cited * “Human Genome Project Information. ” Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <http://www. ornl. ov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/home. shtml>. * McPherson, Jerry. “Effects of Genetic Engineering. ” Disabled World – Health and Disability Community News. 24 Aug. 2008. Web. 07 Oct. 2010. <http://www. disabled-world. com/artman/publish/genetic-engineering. shtml>. * Microbial Genomics. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <http://microbialgenomics. energy. gov/>. * Stanford, Craig B. , John S. Allen, and Susan C. Anton. Exploring Biological Anthropology: the Essentials. Second ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.