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GENETIC ENGINEERING - UTOPIA







SPECIAL TOPIC:


GENETIC ENGINEERING

&

UTOPIA








GENESIS 1:


'..Then God said 'And now we will make human beings, they will be like us and resemble us.They will have power over the fish, the birds and all animal domestic and wild'. So God created human beings, making them to be like himself. He created them male and female, blessed them and said 'Have many children so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control''

HAVE WE THE RIGHT TO PLAY GOD?


Recombinant DNA technology is generally recognised as a very powerful research tool. In the early 1970`s when the technology was being developed, some scientists became concerned that it might be possible to create hazardous microorganisms using recombinant DNA techniques. So molecular biologists from all over the world met to discuss this problem. The outcome of this meeting was that the scientists decided to continue recombinant DNA research using precautions to prevent any possible hazards.

This was more than 20 years ago and now we have come so far that we will be able to clone human beings - don't forget that we've already cloned an animal! The sheep DOLLY was the first successful try to clone an animal. I think it is frightening how far we've come till now. Our possibilities have increased. Today we are able to make gene therapies before a human being is even born. We are able to clone living beings - animals as well as humans. We have the possibility to alter the germline (that means that we are able to change the genome in eggs or sperm) of a human being, but we don't know what will happen. We have the ability, but do we have the right to do this too? ? ?

We don't know. We just experiment with God's creation, we experiment with life without even knowing the consequences. It is clear that most of the people are afraid and have concerns because of this. Embryo research is the experimenting with cloned embryos. These experiments are very important, because the cells of an embryo have a very fast development, just like cancer cells have. This brings very important information of how to cure cancer and many other illnesses which develop too fast for the human immune system to kill. Because human embryo research is just in its infancy, there has been a rush to decide what guidelines are going to be instituted for the governing cloning experiments. To assist the National Institutes of Health of America 1996 (NIH) in determining which cloning experiments to fund, a medical panel was set up to form a preliminary set of guidelines (financed by the government of the United States of America). Steven Muller and other prominent biologists put together a set of guidelines that would satisfy the concerns of both the scientific and religious communities. The religious community opposes all human  cloning procedures whereas the scientific community does not want to lose the enormous amount of information that may be gained by human embryo cloning. They recommended research be permitted in preexisting embryos. These embryos would be allowed to develop until the fourteenth day. Researchers would also be allowed to produce new embryos for "compelling research" (which stands for research on preexisting embryos). But they didn't come to a decision in several other areas of research funding. Research on fetal oocytes* and research on embryos whose donator is unavailable to give consent were left undecided. This brings up a question as to whether or not a person who aborts a fetus still has parental rights pertaining to that fetus. Legally the aborted fetus is not a person and has no legal status. The panel suggested that research might be permitted after the fourteenth day of development depending on the circumstances, but definitely not after the eighteenth day, when neural tube closure begins. The neural tube is the beginning of the nervous system, including the brain, in adult humans. The experiments that the panel recommended be banned include impregnating human embryos in other animal species and impregnating cloned embryos into humans. Currently there are no laws directly prohibiting any of the above procedures in private research settings! It also should be said that all of these procedures have or can be carried out with current technology.

Now many people ask why clone human embryos? Cancer research is possibly the most important reason for cloning embryos. Many scientists believe that embryonic study will advance the understanding of the rapid cell growth of cancer. We are able to look whether an embryo suffers any genetic diseases or not. This procedure is called embryo screening (genetic screening) and is also a very contested procedure, because many parents decide afterwards if they will abort or not! Genetic screening is a branch of cloning research that is already being used in hospitals in England. Parents who have a history of genetically inherited disease can use embryo screening to determine if their child has received the defective gene! Cloned embryos could also be 'used' as spare parts store. It is possible that parents could decide to use one cloned embryo for implantation and eventual birth of a child, and save any spares by freezing them. If the child were to become critically sick, and need a bone marrow transplant, one of the frozen embryos could be thawed and implanted into the uterine wall for development of another identical child. The bone marrow from this child could then be used to help save the life of the child, perhaps even without the necessity of carrying the child to full term. This again raises the question of what moral status a fetus should have!!!


The term genetic engineering frightens most of us. We think of all the hazards this new technology could contain, but I believe that we can't even imagine what consequences this experimenting could have. We just try to clone humans, we just try to alter the germline. Like a little child not knowing what will happen, not even thinking of any consequences!! We learn because of our mistakes, but we should not forget that not all mistakes can be corrected. A big problem is the moral status of unborn life.

For the religious community life begins at the moment the egg is fertilized. Scientists say that life does not begin until the first activities of the neural tube. When does life begin? Society has to decide this. Embryo research is allowed up to the eighteenth day, when the first activities of the neural tube begin, but our society allows to abort up to the third month!! For both, the scientists and the religious community, this would be murder! But abortion is legal

But let us not forget the possibilities genetic engineering contains to cure illnesses and inherited diseases. There are a lot of good things we can do with this technology. Nobody is able to forbid or to allow how far we will go. Nobody! But somebody has to decide. A mother whose child is very ill and can only be cured with gene manipulation will think through if this technology is good or not. It is not good just to say no I am against gene manipulation. To have an opinion we should all know something about it and not just say what media and press is telling us. Inform yourself also through internet and science magazines and read carefully and really try to understand. I believe it is everybody's duty to do this. Because one day it might be important for all of us!!!


UTOPIA



Utopia = comes from a creek word standing for 'no place' . Usually utopia means an idea of what the future will be like. The term utopia became popular because of a novel called 'Utopia' written by T. More in which he describes a world where everything is okay. It was the first novel about an exact idea about what the future of mankind will look like. There were many authors inspired by the term Utopia and so a new kind of literature was born. Most of these utopical novels are about a bad future.


References:

Newspapers: Discovery & P.M.

Internet: http://www.health.gov.au & http://cac.psu.edu/~gsg109/qs/em01003.htm

(also document number 01005 and 01002)



Books for my special topic:


TERMINAL by Robin Cook ( first published in 1993 by G.P. Putman's Sons - New York)

MUTATION by Robin Cook (first published in 1989 by G.P. Putman's Sons - New York)

CHILDREN OF THE DUST by Louise Lawrence (first published in 1985 by The Bodley Head)

FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury (1995 by Cornelsen)

DESIGNER BABIES (copied article)


Other books:


I´D RATHER BE FAMOUS by Pete Johnson (first published in 1989 by Methuen Children's Books Ltd.)

DEAD POETS SOCIETY by Peter Weir (first published in 1991)

DEAR NOBODY by Berlie Doherty (first published in 1991)


Films:


DEAD MAN WALKING by sister Helen Prejean (first published in 1993 by Random House, Inc., New York)

AS GOOD AS IT GETS by James L. Brooks (1998 by Columbia Pictures)

OUTBREAK by Robin Cook (1991 G.P. Putman's Sons - New York)

FORREST GUMP by Eric Roth (Paramount Pictures 1989)





1.TERMINAL, written by Robin Cook

about 500 pages

Terminal is a medical thriller. This book is about a young student and his girlfriend, who find out about the criminal activities of a hospital. It is a frightening story based on the possibilities humans have in the area of genetic engineering.


2.MUTATION, written by Robin Cook

about 400 pages

Mutation is about a boy with an IQ twice as much as Einstein`s who is one of his fathers secret experiments, but nobody knows. He hides a laboratory where he clones human beings to create a new civilisation. Nobody knows about this until his father finds out.


3.CHILDREN OF THE DUST, written by Louise Lawrence

about 200 pages An utopical novel about the outbreak of the third world war. It tells the story of a young girl and how her life changes. In the end, 70 years later, a new mankind has developed.


4.FAHRENHEIT 451, written by Ray Bradbury

about 200 pages

A horrifying image of a future where firemen have the duty to burn books. People do not think anymore. The government thinks for them. This utopical novel shows us the dangers of a totalitarian regime.


5.DESIGNER BABIES

Designer babies is an article about the altering of eggs and sperm of human beings - of their germline. In a serious way it discusses the dangers and ethical concerns and shows us the possibility mankind has at this moment.


QUESTIONS


What are the ethical concerns about genetic engineering?

When did DNA research become important?

Give reasons for cloning human embryos?

Until which age of the embryo is embryo research allowed?

What is genetic screening?

What for is it?

What problems does genetic screening contain?

When does life begin - give reasons?

Your own opinion towards genetic engineering and gene manipulation on human beings?

Explain the term Utopia - what does it mean to you?










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