Genetic Therapy, Boon or Bane?

November 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

In 50 years, science will progress and change society just as it has been for the entire human history. One of the technology might be genetic therapy, which will help with hereditary diseases such as Sickle Cell Anemia and many forms of cancer. However, as with all technology, there are two sides to this piece of human ingenuity.

On the bright side, genetic therapy will be able to cure some diseases which the current progress of medicine can only manage. After gene counseling by parents, doctors might be able to prevent, say, Alzheimer’s in their children by changing the DNA of the embryo (assuming we understand which genes cause Alzheimer’s). In fact, there are already genetic therapy for sickle cell anemia in experimentation. At the moment, geneticists will use harmless virus to insert genes and help correct the DNA defects that causes the disorder.

On the other hand, genetic therapy will also open ethically questionable ways for people to enhance their physical performance. For example, if the gene therapy for sickle cell anemia is used in a normal person, they may be able to obtain a more oxygen efficient circulation system, which will be advantageous for athletes. Better yet for the cheaters, this method cannot be caught by the current system of screening in athletic events, because it is not sufficient to differentiate between natural and inserted gene. For future athletic associations, the system will have to grow and evolve with science. Otherwise there will be people trying to take advantage of these loopholes.

Another issue that comes with gene therapy is “tailored babies.” Some perfectionist parents might try to alter the genome of their children so much that they would not have conceived such a child. Hair color, skin color, height, weight, physical prowess, and even some mental aspects might be “up for sale.” Fortunately, this might require a degree of understanding of the gene that 50 years will not be enough. We just don’t know anything about our gene right now to be toying with it. Aside from obvious technical and ethical issues, the social implication of this capability might be devastating; this might give rise to a society in which how “good” a child is depends on the depth of his/her parents’ pocket.

A two sided sword, and I shudder to think into what it will cut our society.

Nightly Thoughts

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