It all started back in 1953 with two men by the names ofJames D. Watson and Francis Crick when they discovered thedouble-helical structure of DNA. Little did they know they wereopening the door to the creation of a perfect world. In 1986,the Human Genome Project, led up by the National Institution ofHealth(NIH), took a giant leap through this door.
They began thelong process of mapping out the entire genetic makeup of thehuman body. The main purpose of the HGP was originally for theuse of preventing inherent diseases. However, as studiescontinue to progress, increased opportunities arise forgenetically altering the unborn. You are now able to choose thesex of you child before they are born with great accuracy. Whatis on the horizon now, is the possibility of designing your childto be ‘perfect’;.
Over the years, there has been heated, ethicalcontroversy on each of these issues, especially designer babies. How far will we let biotechnological discovery take us? Whatwill come of the world if designer babies become standardprocedure?The earliest and maybe simplest use of genetic manipulationwas in the selection of the sex of an unborn child. In VitroFertilization(IVF – A procedure in which a woman’s eggs areremoved from her body, fertilized outside using sperm from herhusband or another donor, and then transferred back to her body. )was originally limited to couples that were infertile. Even theuse of IVF for the infertile was unheard of at one point. ‘Butgrowing demand makes it socially acceptable, and now anybodywho’s infertile demands IVF,’; says Lee Silver, a PrincetonUniversity biologist.
Several years ago, fertility clinicsannounced the new possibility of sex selection. It was obviouslyan exciting breakthrough, but when these clinics were inquiredabout their results, they only had about a 50 percent successrate. ‘Its affluent clients could have achieved exactly the sameoutcome by leaving a note for the tooth fairy, requesting a girlor a boy’;(Riddell). In the same way, there were many who wereopposed to the idea at first especially with the results theywere getting, but over time the procedures have been almostperfected and it has become socially acceptable. (Lemonick)Many issues have arisen from the possibilities sex selectionwill provide. In cultures where males are valued more thangirls, such as China and India, assured sex selection couldreally throw off an already out of balance society.
In theUnited States it may not be as likely for there to be a favoredsex, generally speaking. In our case, it is more of a weightedopinion on what order you should have your kids, what sex shouldcome first. Statistics show that the ideal family has a male asthe firstborn. Males tend to be more assertive and more dominantthan females, as do firstborns. If you put all this together, itseems as though we are headed towards an even more male-dominatedworld. This is obviously a huge issue not only for the feministand gender-role stereotypes, but also for the more general ideaof a balance of nature.
Will females eventually fade out ofexistence? That is obviously farfetched, but definitely notimpossible. (Lemonick)At this point, the majority still agrees that the provisionsof genetic engineering should be limited to the correction ofinherent diseases. There are two primary ways that genetics canbe used to treat diseases. The first is gene therapy, in whichone or more genes are injected into the patient to replace thosethat are absent or not working properly.
This approach has beenused to treat a broad range of disorders such as heart disease,many forms of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, AIDS, andmany more. The second way to employ genes to treat diseases isknown as small-molecule therapy. In this approach, the patientis given a small molecule (drug) to modify the function of one ormore genes in the body. When the pioneers of gene therapy firstrequested government approval for their experiments in 1987, theyvowed they would never alter the patients’ germline (eggs orsperm). (Begley)Dr. W.
French Anderson, who had had a broad background inthe study of gene therapy mainly from the University of SouthernCalifornia, did a lot of work with gene therapy. He had a desireto use gene therapy to cure a fetus of an inherited disease evenbefore it was born. The only problem was the potential of theintroduced genes slipping into the patient’s egg (or sperm) cellstoo therefore carrying those changes onto the patient’s childrento