The above pictures represent the genetic recombination known as
recombinant genetics. The first clinical trial of human gene
therapy begins in 1990, but as of 2007(2006) gene therapy is still
experimental. The Celera group used the technique denoted as the
whole-genome shotgun technique. The shotgun technique breaks the
DNA into fragments of various sizes, ranging from 2,000 to 300,000
base pairs in length, forming what is called a DNA "library".
Using an automated DNA sequencer the DNA is read in 800bp lengths
from both ends of each fragment. This method became a standard
approach to the sequencing and assembly of bacterial genomes
beginning in 1995, when the first bacterial genome, Haemophilus
influenzae, was sequenced. Using a complex genome assembly
algorithm and a supercomputer, the pieces are combined and the
genome can be reconstructed from the millions of short, 800 base
international public-sector Human Genome Project (HGP),
researchers collected blood (female) or sperm (male) samples from
a large number of donors. Only a few of many collected samples
were processed as DNA resources. Thus the donor identities were
protected so neither donors nor scientists could know whose DNA
was sequenced. DNA clones from many different libraries were used
in the overall project, with most of those libraries being created
by Dr. Pieter J. de Jong. It has been informally reported, and is
well known in the genomics community, that much of the DNA for the
public HGP came from a single anonymous male donor from Buffalo,
New York (code name RP11).
used white cells from the blood of 2 male and 2 female donors
(randomly selected from 20 of each) -- each donor yielding a
separate DNA library. One of these libraries (RP11) was used
considerably more than others, due to quality considerations. One
minor technical issue is that male samples contain only half as
much DNA from the X and Y chromosomes as from the other 22
chromosomes (the autosomes); this happens because each male cell
contains only one X or one Y chromosome, but not both. (This is
true for nearly all male cells not just sperm cells).
Although the main sequencing phase of the HGP has been completed,
studies of DNA variation continue in the International HapMap
Project, whose goal is to identify patterns of single nucleotide
polymorphism (SNP) groups (called haplotypes, or haps). The DNA
samples for the HapMap came from a total of 270 individuals:
Yoruba people in Ibadan, Nigeria; Japanese people in Tokyo; Han
Chinese in Beijing; and the French Centre díEtude du Polymorphisme
Humain (CEPH) resource, which consisted of residents of the United
States having ancestry from Western and Northern Europe.
In the Celera Genomics private-sector project, DNA from five
different individuals were used for sequencing. The lead scientist
of Celera Genomics at that time, Craig Venter, later acknowledged
(in a public letter to the journal Science) that his DNA was one
of those in the pool.
The work on interpretation of genome data is still in its initial
stages. It is anticipated that detailed knowledge of the human
genome will provide new avenues for advances in medicine and
biotechnology. Clear practical results of the project emerged even
before the work was finished. For example, a number of companies,
such as Myriad Genetics started offering easy ways to administer
genetic tests that can show predisposition to a variety of
illnesses, including breast cancer, disorders of hemostasis,
cystic fibrosis, liver diseases and many others. Also, the
etiologies for cancers, Alzheimer's disease and other areas of
clinical interest are considered likely to benefit from genome
information and possibly may lead in the long term to significant
advances in their management.
There are also
many tangible benefits for biological scientists. For example, a
researcher investigating a certain form of cancer may have
narrowed down his/her search to a particular gene. By visiting the
human genome database on the worldwide web, this researcher can
examine what other scientists have written about this gene,
including (potentially) the three-dimensional structure of its
product, its function(s), its evolutionary relationships to other
human genes, or to genes in mice or yeast or fruit flies, possible
detrimental mutations, interactions with other genes, body tissues
in which this gene is activated, diseases associated with this
gene or other datatypes.
deeper understanding of the disease processes at the level of
molecular biology may determine new therapeutic procedures. Given
the established importance of DNA in molecular biology and its
central role in determining the fundamental operation of cellular
processes, it is likely that expanded knowledge in this area will
facilitate medical advances in numerous areas of clinical interest
that may not have been possible without them.
of similarities between DNA sequences from different organisms is
also opening new avenues in the study of the theory of evolution.
In many cases, evolutionary questions can now be framed in terms
of molecular biology; indeed, many major evolutionary milestones
(the emergence of the ribosome and organelles, the development of
embryos with body plans, the vertebrate immune system) can be
related to the molecular level. Many questions about the
similarities and differences between humans and our closest
relatives (the primates, and indeed the other mammals) are
expected to be illuminated by the data from this project.
Genome Diversity Project, spinoff research aimed at mapping the
DNA that varies between human ethnic groups, which was rumored to
have been halted, actually did continue and to date has yielded
new conclusions. In the future, HGDP could possibly expose new
data in disease surveillance, human development and anthropology.
HGDP could unlock secrets behind and create new strategies for
managing the vulnerability of ethnic groups to certain diseases
(see race in biomedicine). It could also show how human
populations have adapted to these vulnerabilities.
The U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Health
spent 3% to 5% of the Human Genome Project annual budget on
studying ethical, legal, and social issues surrounding the Human
Genome Project. This allocation made the U.S. bioethics program
the largest one around the world, setting an example to other
genetic researchers. The issues raised not only concerns the Human
Genome Project, but are often discussed alongside with any biotech
reforms. Several issues need to be considered:
1. The high
cost and money is unjustified. Some people argued that spending
research funding on such large-scale research project such as the
Human Genome Project takes up scarce resources from researchers
who studies special area of interests more efficiently. However,
others argue that large-scale projects reduce possible duplicity
of research and thus minimize waste of funding. There is also the
question of whether we, as a society, should spend the time on
finding the differences or teaching to accept these differences.
For example, if homosexuality is found to be determined
genetically, does it mean society should be more accepting of it?
Why not be more accepting of it anyway even if it is purely a
2. The ability
to diagnose a genetic disease only creates anxiety and frustration
since there will be no treatment for the disease. The current
method only allows us to predict a personís chances of getting a
genetic disease. Researchers might eventually develop some
therapeutic treatments to genetic diseases, but until then, this
criticism remains important.
3. Social and
political mechanism to regulate the outcome of the research is
insufficient. Due to genetic variation, there is not a definite
gene sequence that defines normal. It will be hard to discuss
public policy. Also, we do not know what it will do to the
minority community and how it will change peopleís perspective
the manipulation of the genetic material and information concerns
the critics. Who should own and safeguard the genetic information
is a unknown.
questions such as whether having the ability equals having to take
action need to be considered. Should the scientist do this science
just because they can? Some critics brought up the creation of
atomic bomb, which caused more harm than good.
6. Fairness in
the use of the genetic information by insurers, employers, courts,
schools, adoption agencies, and the military, among others raises
questions. We do not know who should have access to personal
information and how it will be used.
The items listed above are only some of the major issues revolving
the Human Genome Project or the subject of New Genetics in
general. There are many more issues such as the adequacy of
physicians and healthcare providers and helpfulness to the public
regarding general genetic information. Also, how and where the
government should regulate is also very important. The U.S.
government, on one hand, is very encouraging of biotech research,
but on the other hand, needs to figure out a way to mitigate the
The marketing of genetic engineering inspires visions of perfect
health, long life, and miracle foods. The reality is that these
claims are often completely unsubstantiated and sometimes simply
Claim: Genetic engineering is necessary to feed the world.
Fact: Hunger in the world is caused by poverty, by the simple
inability to buy food, not by lack of supply.
Claim: Genetic engineering will help developing countries.
Fact: Biotech companies patent their seeds. To protect their
investment, the farmers that use the seed sign a contract, which
prohibits saving, reselling, or exchanging seed. The family farms
of the poorer nations depend on saved seed for survival. Biotech
companies also patent other people's seeds, like basmati rice, neem, and quinoa, taking advantage of indigenous knowledge and
centuries of selective breeding by small farmers without giving
anything in return. The same companies, backed by the U.S.
government, proposed to protect their seed patents through the
terminator technology. A terminator seed will grow, but the seeds
it produces are sterile. Any nation that buys such seeds will
swiftly lose any vestige of agricultural self-sufficiency.
Furthermore, genetically engineered seeds are designed for
agribusiness farming, not for the capabilities of the small family
farms of the developing nations. How are they to buy and
distribute the required chemical inputs?
Claim: Genetic engineering will reduce the use of herbicides.
Fact: Genetic engineering develops crops with resistance to
specific herbicides. For example, Roundup Ready(tm) crops survive
spraying with RoundUp(tm). On the one hand, this allows the farmer
to use more herbicide. On the other hand, this leads to
Claim: Genetic engineering will reduce the use of pesticides.
Fact: This claim is based on the sowing of crops genetically
engineered to produce their own pesticides. Such crops produce the
pesticide continuously in every cell. Some of these crops (the Bt
potato, for example) are actually classified as pesticides by the
EPA. The net outcome of sowing pesticide-producing crops is a vast
increase in pesticides.
Claim: Genetic engineering is environmentally friendly.
Fact: The increased quantities of herbicides and pesticides noted
above is one strike against this claim. Pollen from genetically
engineered crops can be transferred to cultivated and wild
relatives over a mile away. This threatens the future of organic
crops. It can pass herbicide resistance genes from GE crops to
weedy relatives, necessitating the development of more herbicides.
Also, the huge areas of genetically identical crops will influence
the evolution of local pests and wildlife, and through the food
chain, the whole ecology.
Claim: Genetically engineered foods are just like natural foods.
Fact: There is no natural mechanism for getting insect DNA into
potatoes or flounder DNA into tomatoes. Genetically engineered
foods are engineered to be different from natural foods. Why else
all the patents? This claim is empty sales talk.
Claim: Genetic engineering is simply an extension of traditional
Fact: Crossbreeding cannot transfer genes across species barriers.
Genetic engineering transfers genes between species that could
never be crossbred. Also, crossbreeding lets nature manage the
delicate activity of combining the DNA of the parents to form the
DNA of the child. Genetic engineering shoots the new gene into the
host organism without reference to any holistic principle at all.
Claim: Genetic engineering is safe.
Fact: Safety comes from accumulated experience. In the case of
genetic engineering, there has not been the time or the public
debate essential for accumulating sufficient experience to justify
any broad claim to safety.
There is a vast domain of ignorance at the root of the technology:
# The technique for inserting a DNA fragment is sloppy,
unpredictable and imprecise.
# The effect of the insertion on the biochemistry of the host
organism is unknown.
# The effect of the genetically engineered organism on the
environment is unknown.
# The effect of eating genetically engineered foods is unknown.
# There is no basis for meaningful risk assessment.
# There is no recovery plan in case of disaster.
# It is not even clear who, if anyone, will be legally liable for
There is no consensus among scientists on the safety or on the
risks associated with genetic engineering in agriculture. The
international community is deeply divided on the issue. The claim
to safety is a marketing slogan. It has no scientific basis.
The claims for
genetic engineering are overblown and misleading. And the polls
show that people are suspicious.
Directly related to genetic engineering is gene therapy.
Defintion (What It Actually Is)
Genes who are carried on chromosomes are the basic physical and
functional units of heredity. Genes are specific sequences of
bases that encode instruction on how to make proteins. Although
genes get a lot of attention, it is the proteins that performs
most of the life functions and even makes up the majority of
cellular structures. When genes are altered so that the encoded
proteins are unable to carry out their normal functions, genetic
disorder can result.
Gene therapy is technique for correcting defective genes
responsible for disease development. Researchers may use one of
the several approaches for correcting faulty genes:
a) A normal gene may be inserted into a nonspecific location
within the genome to replace a
nonfunctional gene. This approach is most common.
b) An abnormal gene could be swapped for a normal gene through
c) The abnormal gene could be repaired through selective reverse
mutation, which returns the
gene to its normal functions.
d) The regulation (the degree to which a gene is turned on or off)
of a particular gene could
How Does It
In most gene therapy studies, a ďnormalĒ gene is inserted into the
genome to replace an abnormal disease-causing gene. A carrier
molecule called a vector must be used to deliver the therapeutic
gene to the patientís target cells. Currently, the most common
vector is a virus that has been genetically altered to carry
normal human DNA. Viruses have evolved a way of encapsulating and
delivering their genes to humans in a pathogenic manner.
Scientists have tried to take advantage of this capability and
manipulate the virus genome to remove disease-causing genes and
insert therapeutic genes.
Target Cells such as the patientís liver or lung cells are
infected with the viral vector. The vector then unloads its
genetic material containing the therapeutic human gene into the
Of Viruses Used In Gene Therapy
The generation of a functional protein product from its
therapeutic gene restores the target cell to a normal state.
Some of the different types of
viruses used as gene therapy vector
are as follows:
It is a class of viruses that can create double stranded DNA
copies of their RNA genomes. These copies of genomes can be
integrated in to the chromosomes of host cells. Human Immune
deficiency Virus (HIV) is a retrovirus.
It is a class of virus with double stranded DNA genomes that cause
respiratory, intestinal and eye infections in human beings. The
virus that causes common cold is an adenovirus.
It is a class of small, single - stranded DNA virus that can
insert their genetic material at a specific site on Chromosome 19.
It is class of double stranded DNA virus that infects a particular
cell type, neurons. Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 is a common human
pathogen that causes cold sores.
Status Of Gene Therapy Research
Food and drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved any human
gene therapy product for sale. Current gene therapy is
experimental and has not proven very successful in clinical
trials. Little progress has been made since the first gene therapy
suffered a major setback in 1999 with the death of 18-year-old
blow came in January 2003 when the FDA placed a temporary ban on
all gene therapy trial using retroviral vector in blood stream
cell. FDA took this action after it learned that a second child
treated in French gene therapy trial had developed leukemia like
condition. Both this child and another who had developed a similar
condition in August 2002 had been successfully treated by gene
therapy for X- linked severe combined.
factors that have kept gene therapy from
becoming an effective treatment for genetic diseases are the
A) Short - Lived Nature Of Gene Therapy
Before gene therapy can become a permanent cure for any condition,
the therapeutic DNA introduced into target cell must remain
functional and the cells containing the therapeutic DNA must be
long-lived and stable. Problem with integrating therapeutic DNA
into the genome and the rapidly dividing nature of many cells
prevents gene therapy from long-term benefits. Patients will have
to undergo multiple rounds of gene therapy.
Any time a foreign object is introduced into human tissue, the
immune system is designed to attack the invader. The risk of
stimulating the immunity system in a way that reduces gene therapy
effectiveness is always a potential risk. This makes it very
difficult for patients to accept gene therapy.
C) Multigene Disorders
Conditions or disorders that arises from mutation in a single gene
are the best candidates for gene therapy. Unfortunately some of
the most commonly occurring disorders such as the heart disease,
high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes etc. are caused by the
combined effect of variation in many genes. Multigene or
multi-factorial disorder such as these would be especially
difficult to treat effectively using gene therapy.
These are some of the factors that are plaguing gene therapy and
its research. If there are more, then they are very welcome.
Developments In Gene Therapy Research
University of California, Los Angeles, the research team gets
genes into the brain using liposome coated in a polymer cell
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG). The transfer of gene into the brain is
a significant achievement because viral vectors are too big to get
This method has a potential for treating Parkinsonís disease.
2) New Gene
therapy approach repairs errors in messenger RNA derived from
defective genes. Technique has potential to treat the blood
disorders, thalassemia, cystic fibrosis and some cancers.
3) A British
Hospital in London on the 3rd of May 2007 has made the worldís
first attempt to treat blindness with revolutionary gene therapy.
Surgeons at the Moorfields Eye hospital operated on Robert Johnson
who was born with a rare sight disorder known as Leberís
congenital amaurosis (LCA) that deteriorates with age. The purpose
of the Moorfields trial is to find out how safe and effective the
intervention is for humans. It is hoped that the replacement genes
will enable the retina to detect light and eventually restore
4) Cancer is
diagnosed in almost 1.5 million people annually. Cystic fibrosis
is an inherited, fatal disease occurring once in every 2,500
Caucasian births and once in every 17,000 African American births.
Genetic research has failed, so far, to solve many genetic-based
cancers, but it has identified the gene and its location (on
chromosome 7) responsible for cystic fibrosis (Encarta í98
Many researchers and lay people object to genetic research and its
application, genetic engineering, fearing a genetic accident
comparable to the killer bee incident in South America. The
promise of genetic research in the form of gene therapy is,
however, overwhelmingly beneficial to people with genetically
passed diseases, like cystic fibrosis. Research and testing for
gene therapy must be funded and continued. One common form of gene
therapy is recombinant DNA. Recombinant DNA is defined as a novel
DNA sequence produced by artificially joining pieces of DNA from
different organisms together in the laboratory. Therefore,
recombinant DNA is DNA that could cure a host body when it is
combined with the DNA of a pathogen. The recombined pathogen is
reinserted into the host where the genetically improved DNA is
absorbed by the host. The hope is for successful treatment of the
5) In Japan
generic drugs have been made more accessible for the aging
population rather than branded drugs.
Like the examples cited above there may be further developments
that we are not aware of. If such developments are brought forth
they will shed interesting light upon gene therapy and its
There are however some considerations that need to be taken care
of before the nascent growth of gene therapy becomes gigantic.
They are the following:
We could choose to have changes made to us, but we might also be
making the choice for our children if the changes carried through
to the germ line. Do we have that right, and how far should we
take our ability?
What place would genetically engineered human and regular humans
have in society? Could unequal access to genetic engineering lock
in or exaggerate current class division?
The metaphysical or spiritual implications of genetically
engineered people/ human are vast in scope. For example, we are
individually shown and personally shown to be exclusively the
result of genetic information acted upon by the environment, the
concept of human soul and free will could be proven specious.
The Legal Aspect
The following legal aspects have been discussed as is relevant to
genetic engineering and gene therapy:
UNESCO Bioethics Committee and International Regulation of Gene
The UNESCO International Bioethics Committee had their meeting
with more than 50 members selected from 35 countries. The
committee is drafting general guidelines and an international
declaration on the human genome and human genetics, that it is
hoped will be approved by the United Nations General Assembly in
1998, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.
The committee was founded one year ago, and in its first year
considered three major themes, genetic screening, population
genetics, and gene therapy.
The report on gene therapy has some interesting features [Nature
(29 Sept. 1994) 371: 369]. The key points can be summarized as:
# Somatic cell gene therapy - encouraged for any disease
# Somatic cell gene enhancement - not to be illegal
# Germ-line gene therapy - not to be illegal
# Germ-line gene enhancement - should not be done
The conclusions are more liberal than some national guidelines
[e.g. French law discussed in August issue, p. 22-3], and the
Council of Europe Bioethics Convention [Sept./Oct. issue, p.
22-3]. They reflect the logic of obtaining international support
and being independent of time. If we assume that the safety of
gene therapy will improve, then logically inheritable, or
germ-line, therapy could be acceptable. We can think of cases
where it may be more logical than somatic cell therapy, in the
time frame of implementation of international declarations and
conventions (e.g. up to ten years from now).
Enhancement, for example of immune system or avoiding memory loss,
could also be accepted, but because of ethical concerns about
germ-line enhancement, the committee recommends to draw the line
at somatic cell therapy. It recognises that already some
enhancement is accepted, whether it be vaccination, vitamins, or
make-up. Nevertheless there are more concerns over enhancement by
the public, and also fears of a slippery slope, so we should wait
until we reach a wide consensus before germ-line enhancement [e.g.
Fukui Statement on International Bioethics, Fukui, Japan, 1993]. A
few writers have supported the concept of enhancement in the
academic journals [Miller HI: Gene therapy for enhancement. The
Lancet (1994) 344: 316-7]. But most think that germ-line
enhancement should not be contemplated for a long time, at least
our children or grandchildren should decide whether to use it, not
Commission within the committee also tabled the first draft
Declaration on Protection of the Human Genome. Several points are
6. No research on or modification of the human genome, whether the
modification has therapeutic or diagnostic aims, can be undertaken
without the free and informed consent of the person concerned. In
the case of minors and others legally incapacitated, parents or
guardians should give such consent.
has the right to obtain compensation for any damages that they
have suffered due to research on, or modifications of their
It should be stressed that the first reports and first draft are
likely to be modified, but they present some basic points that are
likely to be reflected in the international declaration. Some
members debated point 8 about compensation, e.g. who is liable and
international guidelines justified?
There is a large debate over whether national or international
guidelines are appropriate [Debated in a forum in: Politics and
the Life Sciences (August 1994)]. UNESCO intends countries to
implement more specific national laws, if they wish, in addition
to a basic international framework. The call for international
approaches is based on several arguments, including shared
biological heritage, and the precedents for international law to
protect common interests of humanity. Those calling for national
guidelines argue that each culture should make their own standards
because of national autonomy and because people in each country
have different attitudes.
In 1993 the
International Bioethics Survey was conducted in Australia, Hong
Kong, India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, The Philippines, Russia,
Singapore and Thailand. The results were compared to North America
and Europe. The survey included 150 questions with 35 open
questions, and some questions on genetic screening, and gene
therapy. The full results are in a book [D. Macer, Bioethics for
the People by the People, Eubios Ethics Institute 1994, from: P.O.
Box 125, Tsukuba Science City, 305, JAPAN].
in all countries were willing to undergo therapy themselves, and
80+% willing for their children to undergo gene therapy to cure a
usually fatal disease. The major reasons expressed in open
questions ("Why?") were to save life and increase the quality of
life. About 5-7% rejected gene therapy considering it to be
playing God, or unnatural. There was very little concern about
eugenics (0.5-2%), and actually more people gave supportive
reasons like "improving genes", especially in Thailand and India.
The open comments suggest eugenic thinking is found in most
Another set of
questions on gene therapy to treat different conditions found
people do have significant discretion, supporting somatic cell
gene therapy (e.g. curing cancer) and germ-line (e.g. preventing
children from inheriting a usually non-fatal disease, such as
diabetes), but rejecting enhancement gene therapy (e.g. improving
the physical characteristics that children inherit). There must
still be some debate over enhancement, as in India and Thailand,
more than 50% of the 900+ respondents in each country supported
enhancement of physical characters, intelligence, or making people
more ethical. A 1994 Gallup poll in the UK also reports up to 20%
of people accepting enhancement gene therapy, which is much higher
than 1993 [Nature (1994) 371: 193].
support in all countries that have been surveyed in the world for
gene therapy, and genetic screening. Similar results exist for the
USA from an Office of Technology survey in 1987 and a March of
Dimes survey in 1992. A review of international studies on public
opinion in general is B. Zechendorf, "What the public thinks about
biotechnology", Biotechnology (Sept. 1994) 12: 870-5. In fact, he
refers to an earlier 1991 survey I conducted in Japan, and
mistakenly says Japanese do not approve of gene therapy, when they
do. However, in the 1993 survey there was a 15% jump in acceptance
over my 1991 survey data, while genetic screening approval was
unchanged, suggesting positive media influence has increased
of views of people in countries around the world is generally
similar within each country, which I have called universal
bioethics. We need to recognise that people in all countries are
mixed in their opinions, this diversity is universal. The types of
reasons given are generally similar. This data supports the
concept of international guidelines. Such guidelines could provide
a minimum standard for ethical protection of users and to enable
availability of service. From past experience we cannot expect
many countries to go the extra step and implement national laws.
We could say universal access to health care and these new
techniques was desirable also, but that is something we must
continue to work on.
From all appearances Dolly looks like a very ordinary lamb. Yet
the extraordinary way she was born has not only has made her the
most famous sheep on the planet, but has ignited widespread
curiosity, amazement and debate over cloning and genetic
27, 1997, the world learned that Dolly was a clone. Guided by Ian
Wilmut and colleagues from the Roslin Institute in Scotland, they
announced that they had succeeded in giving birth to a sheep that
had originated from a cell taken from an adult sheep. This made
her the identical twin of a sheep that was six years older! Just
as amazing is the fact that she has no father. Although there were
some who doubted that the procedure had been reported accurately,
subsequent cloning successes with other animals (i.e. cattle,
mice) have proven the power of the technology.
engineering is a laboratory technique used by scientists to change
the DNA of living organisms. DNA is the blueprint for the
individuality of an organism. The organism relies upon the
information stored in its DNA for the management of every
biochemical process. The life, growth and unique features of the
organism depend on its DNA. The segments of DNA which have been
associated with specific features or functions of an organism are
called genes. The truth is that some scientists are wholeheartedly
against genetic engineering and some are wholeheartedly for it. In
this situation the only scientific solution is to foster public
scientific debate and to delay application until all fundamental
questions are resolved. Corporations, however, have a vested
interest in speedy application. They are not willing to wait and
are attempting to gather the support of the public through
extensive marketing campaigns. But there is a vast discrepancy
and the simple facts.
was regarded as a languid, largely descriptive discipline, a
passive science that was content, for much of its history, merely
to observe the natural world rather than change it. No longer.
Today biology, armed with the power of genetics, has replaced
physics as the activist Science of the Century and it stands
poised to assume godlike powers of creation, calling forth
artificial forms of life rather than undiscovered elements and
sub-atomic particles. The initial steps toward this new Genesis
have been widely touted in the press. It wasn't so long ago that
Scottish scientists stunned the world with Dolly, the fatherless
sheep cloned directly from her mother's cells: these techniques
have now been applied, unsuccessfully, to human cells. ANDi, a
photogenic rhesus monkey, recently was born carrying the gene of a
luminescent jellyfish. Pigs now carry a gene for bovine growth
hormone and show significant improvement in weight gain, feed
efficiency, and reduced fat. Most soybean plants grown in the
United States have been genetically engineered to survive the
application of powerful herbicides. Corn plants now contain a
bacterial gene that produces an insecticidal protein rendering
them poisonous to earworms.
scientists and scientific entrepreneurs (two labels that are
increasingly interchangeable) assure us that these feats of
technological prowess, though marvelous and complex, are
nonetheless safe and reliable. We are told that everything is
under control. Conveniently ignored, forgotten, or in some
instances simply suppressed are the caveats, the fine print, the
flaws and spontaneous abortions. Most clones exhibit developmental
failure before or soon after birth, and even apparently normal
clones often suffer from kidney or brain malformations. ANDi,
perversely, has failed to glow like a jellyfish. Genetically
modified pigs have a high incidence of gastric ulcers, arthritis,
cardiomegaly (enlarged heart), dermatitis, and renal disease.
Despite the biotechnology industry's assurances that genetically
engineered soybeans have been altered only by the presence of the
alien gene, as a matter of fact the plant's own genetic system has
been unwittingly altered as well, with potentially dangerous
consequences. The list of malfunctions gets little notice;
biotechnology companies are not in the habit of publicizing
studies that question the efficacy of their miraculous products or
suggest the presence of a serpent in the biotech garden.
laws especially of Japan in the years of 1975 and 2002 ruled out
further research on gene therapy and genetic engineering. However
the process is being carried forward and these technologies are
related to treatment of AIDS and various types of Cancer. The new
patent laws however do not permit any further research. In India
however one hospital in Noida tried to use gene therapy but it was
not very successful. Efforts are continuing.
All said and done, I as an author would like to enquire about the
necessity of the whole concept of genes and genetic engineering
and gene therapy. It is definitely a revolutionary way to cure
incurable diseases. However, should we as human beings need to do
further research that raise various questions? Are we greedy to
gain immortal lives? Are we distorting nature or are we not? I
hope my readers will be able to solve this unsolvable question?
I have tried to put forward my humble effort in dealing with the
particular concept of Gene therapy and genetic engineering. If I
have committed any mistakes , I beg to be forgiven as it is only
an endeavour. I am indebted to the various authors from the
Internet from whom I have taken the various concepts and
references, a list of which is given below in the footnote. I am
also indebted to Sri Ashis Mallick, Teacher- in -Charge , and all
the Professors of Sarsuna Law College ( Professors Kana Mukherjee,
Anindita Adhikari, Sumana Roychowdhury, Atashi Roy Khaskhel,
Ishtiaque Ahmed , Surekha Somabalan and Rituparna Sengupta) for
helping and encouraging me in writing this article.
I am grateful to all for their special help in writing this
particular work. I am especially grateful to my guide Professor
Atashi Roy Khaskhel for her very special help in this paper. I am
also profoundly grateful to the following list of websites in the
Internet. I am equally grateful to my College librarians as well
as my friends and seniors without whose help this article could
not be written at all.
1. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
2. Journal: Gene Therapy Newsletter 4 (1994), 4-5. Author: Darryl
R. J. Macer
5. The Times Of India, Kolkata dated Monday 23rd of April 2007.
6. The Telegraph, Kolkata dated Thursday 3rd May 2007.
7. Mothers for Natural Law.
8. American College term papers.
9. Magazines for reference.
11. Articles for reference.
12. Science Magazines.