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Genetic Engineering- Bane or a Boom?

Submitted by on November 17, 2013 – 7:17 PM

322182-2434-31A scalpel has the power to kill a human being who lies helplessly in an operation room, however that very same scalpel has the ability to save a person. It all depends on the surgeon whose hand the scalpel is in. That surgeon can choose to either use it to save the patient’s life or just end it with a few wrong cuts. This ideology goes hand in hand for any other technology or tool. It depends on you, whether  you choose to use it, or abuse it.

For me, Genetic Engineering is a technology that should get immediate support and advancement from today’s community. It is a field vastly misconceived as just a novel technology that is used to mimic God’s work and perfect human beings and their flaws. The whole procedure is accused to be “unnatural” and “wrong.” The entire perception of this technology has been skewed because it alters the genetic makeup of naturally existing species.

What people fail to perceive is that this is not some Frankenstein syndrome here to stay. It is a technology that can not only be used to protect the agriculture industry but also to enhance medicine to a level where hereditary diseases can more or less be prevented from occurring in the patients as well as their offspring.

Diabetes mellitus for example, is a common disease related to high blood glucose which if untreated, can be fatal. It needs a protein called insulin that consists of 51 amino acids. There are many animals that have insulin which is very similar to human insulin but more often than not one or two amino acids differ. The function is rather similar but it is likely that since the human immune system is quite sensitive it can detect the difference and make the person resistant to animal insulin leaving the insulin to be ineffective.

This is where the so called “unethical” and “controversial” genetic engineering swoops in and saves the day. City of Hope Medical Center in California, Keiichi Itakura took the initiative and produced synthetic human insulin which is manufactured via recombinant DNA technology. This human insulin can then be used for the treatment of diabetic patients accordingly.

Some tomatoes and bananas have been genetically modified to contain the hepatitis B vaccine. This vaccine is capable of making our bodies immune to the virus that causes high fever and potentially cancer. After inserting a single gene inside these fruits they express the protein a thousand times over and after exposing itself to the bloodstream it induces the immune system produce antibodies against the Hepatitis B virus. Hence, working in a more effective and economically friendly way than a conventionally injected vaccine. World Health Organization has advocated this to be a practice in countries without immunization of HBV (Hepatitis B Virus.)

On a lighter note, University of Wyoming, USA  introduced the gene of silk production from a golden orb spider into female cows who were able to produce one of the strongest material; known to be even stronger than steel through their milk. The problem encountered before this facility was that the spiders were unable to produce sufficient quantities of this high-tech silk, but now due to this genetic modification, Professor Lewis’ Team at this University extracted around four meters of silk with just 4 drops of protein they collected from the milk. This silk can be utilized for procedures such as restructuring jaws, forming ligaments and tendons; it has the potential of blowing open a whole new dimension of medicine.

Genetic modification or engineering is metaphorically not much different than transplant surgery. You cut open the site of the organ, remove it and replace it with a new functional one; this will provide the needed purpose and keep the patient healthy. The difference is that instead of the organ, you manipulate with the genomic sequence. I agree this can be carried forward to future generations but if availed wisely an improved and a healthier gene will be passed on.

Let’s look at it this way– You want to marry a person you love but you can’t because he/she has a family history of genetic disorder, are you just blatantly going to give up? If it were older times you wouldn’t have even known about the genetic disorder and that would’ve resulted in genetically disordered off springs. But now there have been recent clinical successes in gene therapy, we can use gene therapy to treat diseases like chronic lymph leukemia, Parkinson’s diseases. And it’s not just genetic diseases we can treat, cardiovascular diseases and cancers also come under their umbrella of treatment.

If the society has slowly yet gradually accepted cosmetic surgery, that risk a great deal of side effects, It shouldn’t be a faith altering decision to support a technology that is only trying to better human medicine and promote a healthier line of food products.

Every technology comes with an easier future in mind, however many people still tend to abuse it like the nuclear bombing in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki incident during World War II. But that same nuclear power can be used to create heat and electricity for the developing countries of the world.  We should not keep ourselves closed off to technological advantages which can offer a great deal of benefits to nature as well as a better chance for people to enhance their health and longevity

There are two sides to every story, the good and the bad. So it is for genetic engineering. Therefore, it should be endlessly exhausted for its benefits. This technology is here to stay and can improve our future in unthinkable ways; it has so much potential that it does not deserve to be neglected because of some god complex that it supposedly possesses.




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