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Is it worth modifying the genes of human embryos, even if it is not ethical?

ya_socials
Опубликовано:
Автор: Mirlan639320715

Abstract

This article discusses the problem of using gene modification on people from the point of ethics. The topic of experiments on humans became sensational after the declaration of Chinese scientist. He claimed that he changed genes of embryos, so two girls born with immunity to HIV, but the reaction of society was negative. This study aims to identify the reasons of people’s attitude to this breakthrough and determine the positive and negative sides of genetically modified humans.

Based on literature review and results of survey, that was distributed to the high school students, there are people, who are not worried about the problems with gene modification, which means there is a chance of its development in the future. On this basis, society in the future can get used to the people with changed genes, that is why this sphere still has potential to be one of the most necessary. 

Introduction

The opportunity to make human better from genetic side always interested scientists since the inventing DNA and RNA. After they find out that there are molecules, which determines our characteristics, specialists start researching this sphere. In the beginning it was used on plants, because there were enough number of them and it is easy to work with them since they are not running away or making noises. The first genetically engineered animal was mouse and after that the number of experiments slowly started growing up. Now, scientists can change some characteristics of organisms, like an ability to glow or to be sustainable to uncomfortable conditions. 

Due to my personal concern, I have always been interested in this issue according to several reasons. One of them is that I’m interested in this sphere, since I like to find out about different variations of alive creatures with some kind of developments, like being sustainable to some climatical conditions or changing physical characteristics. Moreover, I was even more motivated after the reaction of society on the experiment of Chinese scientist on human embryos. Mostly it was negative, and after that I was really interested in this situation. I always thought about the gene modification as issue, that can strongly change us to the better side, but after this happening I understood that I should analyze it and know if it is possible to make this issue exist in the future. 

In our days, after the experiment of Chinese scientist, gene modification, especially on people, seems to everyone as problem, since some of them think that we should appreciate our biological nature, it can negatively affect the future generations or it can cause cancer! However, if we will use it correctly, we can solve different problems. One of them is that we are weak against some viruses, like HIV, or hereditary diseases, which sometimes are incurable. With gene modification we would be much stronger in all spheres: science, medicine, sport and etc. 

As a part of 21st century’s society I would like to find out if society can accept gene modification as an important part of their life, like any other medical services, or not. It is one of the issues, that easily can be as big as, for example, tattoo or plastic surgeons. People in the past thought about them as a sin or couldn’t even imagine them and today people can easily use it on themselves, that is why we can’t say for sure if it will be usual part of every human’s life in the future.

Context

In BBC’s (2018) article reviewing consequences of modifying genes of human embryos, there is written that He Jiankui defends ‘world’s first gene-edited babies’. Though his work is very perspective for the humanity, other scientists criticized him, because as they say, gene-editing is monstrous and mostly associated with off-target mutations. Also, as Professor Julian Savulescu says, it can cause genetic problems, which can negatively affect to the health.  Many countries, like the UK, have acts that prevent changing genes in the human embryos (BBC, 2018). This problem is so important, so even the government cannot allow people do that kind of stuff. This is one of the main reasons why He Jiankui, according to BBC’s (2019) article, got jailed for three years, even though his work could save millions of lives. On the one hand, it could help to avoid heritable diseases, but on the other hand it could also cause harm to the future generations. Anyway, no one knows it for sure, but experts are doing everything to decrease the possibility of dangerous results, that would negatively affect to the people. These articles showed me, consequences of gene editing in our time, so they will be very helpful in my project. 

Moral is important to keep people in safe, in case to prevent from doing crazy stuff. It helps us to create special standards, that can equalize everyone, so it is a big step in destroying all kinds of discrimination. Miguel Beriain (2019) in his work says that genetic experiments will be the focus of public debates, that is why not all people can accept them. Also, as this author says, if we will accept our biological nature of essence, then it will be more complicated to solve problems, which we have now or may occur in the future. Additionally, Miguel Beriain (2019) says, that genes are variable, that is why if we will not edit them, nature will do it, but slower. This evidence is taken from the Article 3 of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, which states that the human genome is not static in nature, but evolves: "The human genome, which by its nature evolves, is subject to mutations. It contains potentialities that are expressed differently according to each individual's natural and social environment, including the individual's state of health, living conditions, nutrition and education."(UNESCO, n. d.) This aspect is so important, that even the United Nations Organization showed that point in their declaration. These resources will help me to find out new ideas about the gene editing problem and know about humanities present priorities about this topic.  

Bergman (2019) in his article about perspectives of gene editing says, that science is progressing very fast, so no one did not have time to think about the ethical side of new breakthroughs, that is why it is hard to accept changings, which can make our life in the near future very unusual. Even if gene editing has huge potential, scientists are aware of possible negative consequences, so it is risky to suddenly start using it. Also, he used commentaries of experts, who can be related to this problem. One of them Robert Truog (2019), whose opinion is used to write this article, describes this situation from the different sides, from poor child with mutation in genome to scientists who may be responsible for the problems like these in the future. Another expert, Sheila Jasanoff, thinks that we should establish special observatory, where scientists can freely work on gene editing. In this article we can see a problem question from Professor Kevin Eggan - will gene editing be safe and help the health of a child? In this article we can see, how gene editing can affect different spheres, like science, business, medicine or law. This source can help me to see how it will affect not only society, but other spheres too, because this huge breakthrough can change our future. It is important to know, since people are dependent from all of them and any little changing can cause huge consequences. Also, opinions of experts from every of this sphere are very helpful, since they are giving new ideas and uncovering them. 

To sum up, there are not so much information about this problem, because this topic became debatable recently, but I’m sure that soon there will be more articles about it. Overall, all the sources that I use are important to me, as all of them give me different facts and opinions about gene editing. In all of them, authors clearly explained their ideas and situation, that they are illustrating. Example with Chinese scientist is the most interesting resource for this work, since it shows me real consequences of this problem. Reaction from the whole world says about our present ethical position. We value our biological nature, that is why even though gene editing has many benefits, like improving health or modifying our physical characteristics, we can’t use it freely. That is why, in our days, we only can discuss this problem, until humanity will change their mind.

Aims

    The purpose of this project work is to determine advantages and disadvantages of gene editing and analyze society’s reaction to this issue.  This work can show the features of modern people’s psychology. Also, comparing the influence of genome editing to other spheres of human’s life. This research will focus on these questions: 

  • How gene editing can affect our life? 
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of gene editing? 
  • Why society’s reaction to the real experiment is so emotionally strong? 
  • How it can affect our future? 

These questions are directly related to the main issue and reveal the purpose of the work. 

Expected outcomes: 

  • To find out what school members think about this topic. 
  • To find the main reasons of why it is unethical. 
  • To make predictions about the possible changing opinion about this topic.

Methods

In my project, I should know about the reaction of society to the gene modification. If in some fantastic movies or books it seems like it is usual thing, that no one is not against it, in real life people’s reaction was mostly negative. There are different ways to collect information about this issue and I used both types of sources, primary and secondary. They are supplementing each other, that is why inaccuracy and possible bias declined. These methods were important to make the project more qualified and get clear information. 

Background information is necessary to get the understanding of this topic, that is why it was prepared first. Gene modification is very interesting issue, but after using it in practice on people, the number of articles and different works has rapidly increased, so it is not hard to find them. But not all of them are suitable for my project, since opinions in some works may be biased. After all it is an internet, where people can freely share their opinions about every problem they hear, so it was necessary for me to use information that doesn’t have any immoral points of view. 

To avoid problems like these, all the background information was taken from globally recognized and credible sites. For example, BBC was one of the most helpful and reliable sources, because it has a very strong reputation, and it was used in the context. However, there were a lot of useful sources which were checked by RAVEN, the criteria for identifying credibility of sources. In addition, only governmental, educational, commercial and organizational sites were used to be confident in the reliability of information. Since I get it from the internet, the type of source of information is secondary. 

In this research, another method I used is survey. The topic that I chose is connected with the whole society, that is why it was important in my project to make more and more people participate in it. It is easy with the survey to ask opinion of the huge number of people, so statistics that I will receive it can give me an opportunity to analyze their point of view. I used SurveyMonkey to create a survey and then share it to others through Outlook office 365 and other social medias. Overall, I asked 7 questions, where participants can choose an answer or write their own. This type of method is primary, because I directly get information from people without any intermediary. Since I’m using background information from the internet and survey, I can say that I used both primary and secondary sources of information. 

I thought about using the interview as a research method, but after all I decided not to use it. Of course, it can give important information in short time and it is important to get expert’s opinion, but I can easily get it from the internet and use it as background information. Also, if I make interview, I would spend more time on working with it, because it is not easy for me to write the transcription of the dialogue and translate it. Next, I prefer to gain information without face-to-face meetings, since it is more comfortable for me to work with computer. All in all, two methods I described have enough information I need, so there is no need to use any other methods.

Results 

The Internet research was very essential as all the data found was relevant and useful. The main findings have been already described in the literature review section. 

Results show that the majority of the participants actually are not against gene modification and accept it since it shows the progress of science and humanity. Their amount in percentage ratio is 40%. 36% of participants stay at the neutral position, it means that they don’t really care about this issue. They didn’t show any interest to the gene modification. Next, 16% of participants are against this issue, because they respect their biological essential. They prefer not to change their body. 8% of participants had their own answers. Mostly their position is neutral, but even though they are against gene modification. 

If we talk about other people changing their genes, there answers are almost the same. I asked them if people are allowed to change their genes or not. The greatest number of participants (48%) are okay with it and don’t mind if someone will modify his genes. Next course, 28% of participants stay at the neutral position, which means they are not for and not against this issue. The least number of participants (24%) are against gene modification even on other people. In this case, they want to save variation in the genetical level and keep all people being totally different. Mostly, people respect other people’s choice, even if it is very unusual, so they will be tolerant towards those, who will change their genes. 

Next, I asked people question about the situation that forced me to make the project on this issue. After the reaction of people from all over the world, I was really interested in their opinion about it. The greatest number of participants (52%) think that a Chinese scientist made an important step to make humanity better. They support his work, which shows another way to protect people from HIV. 32% of participants keep their position neutral, so they show that they are not interested in his work. The least number of people (16%), who answered this question, think that his work can cause negative consequences in the future, that is why they are against gene modification on people. 

Most of the people support gene modification, which means it is possible to use it in everyday life in the future. We could call it a progress, because society’s opinion about this issue can change rapidly, so if today they are against it, tomorrow they would try to change their genes. Average amount of people stayed at the neutral position in every question, that is why in the future they would not have any importance in this issue, if there will be a question about its importance in the whole world. Even if the number of people with opposite opinion is the least, they showed that it is almost impossible today to use gene modification on people. In my opinion, they are against this issue, because every people should respect his original genes. Many thousands of years were spent by people and the evolution process to be those, who we are today. If we will change genes, people may think that by doing that we show disrespect to nature and our ancestors. In this case, even if gene modification will be legal, there will be people, who against it and maybe they will protest, so it may be impossible to avoid conflicts. Overall, we can’t predict the future, but there is a high possibility, that gene modification will be legal and it will be as usual as printing tattoos on the bodies or making plastic surgeons. Other variants of future are probable too, but with lower possibility. 

Conclusion

According to the each of the research questions it is possible to make following conclusions. 

How gene editing can affect our life? 

With gene modification we can significantly change our lives. It gives us many opportunities which can solve many problems, like hereditary diseases or poor physical or mental state. On the other hand, there are people who doesn’t like the idea of this issue, that is why there is a possibility of social conflicts. 

What are the benefits and drawbacks of gene editing? 

As benefits I can mark that it shows the progress of science and that it can solve many problems, which disturb us today. If we will use gene modification, then we can consider it as the easiest way of solving them, since it is possible to use it today.  

Drawback of the gene modification is that there is the possibility of negative influence to our health. Some experts say this issue can cause cancer or genetic illnesses. 

Why society’s reaction to the real experiment is so emotionally strong? 

One of the main reasons of this reaction is that society may be not ready for this breakthrough, because gene modification usually associates with mutants, who’s look or physical characteristics may be too unpredictable, so people can’t accept their exist. 

How it can affect our future? 

Actually, there are two main scenarios of what will happen in the future. According to the first one, in the near future people will be able to accept gene modification as usual thing, like tattoos or plastic surgeons. In this case, some problems, like hereditary diseases or physical and mental weaknesses, can easily be solved, so future generations will be much better than us. 

In the second scenario, gene modification will be illegal, like using drugs or slavery, that is why it will be hard in the future to use it in practice. Government will pursuit those, who are changing people’s genes, after people’s protests against this issue. In this case, there is a possibility of slow progress of humanity, but they will save their original genes. 

From my point of view, gene modification is unavoidable, that is why sooner or later people will accept it as an important of their life. This way will be better for humanity, because in our days we already have many problems and if we will solve some of them by changing genes, which are easy to use it in practice, then we can concentrate our attention on others.    

References

BBC. (2018). He Jiankui defends 'world's first gene-edited babies'. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-46368731 

BBC. (2019). China jails 'gene-edited babies' scientist for three years. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-50944461 

Bergman M. (2019). Perspectives on gene editing. The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/01/perspectives-on-gene-editing/ 

Beriain M. (2019). Should human germ line editing be allowed? Some suggestions on the basis of the existing regulatory framework. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=3&sid=72b22fa2-9c1e-4cf4-83b3-2f589cedeb93%40sessionmgr4006&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=133724121&db=afh 

Roberts M. (2018). China baby gene editing claim 'dubious'. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46342195

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