Genetic engineering in humans isn’t science fiction. It is very real and several experiments have been conducted across the world, some with limited success and some with no significant accomplishment. Genetic engineering in humans is a contentious issue. There are religious organizations asking for a ban on any such attempt to alter the genetics of a human being. Activists and humanitarian organizations across the world don’t completely endorse the idea or the experimentation of genetic engineering. The scientific community is also divided.
There are several pros and cons of genetic engineering in humans. Before delving into those let us quickly understand what it is. Simply put, genetic engineering is altering the genes in a human being to achieve a particular purpose. For instance, if a certain gene is faulty or isn’t functioning properly in a human being, that gene can be altered so it functions desirably or a new gene can be introduced that is similar in nature and would do the job of the faulty or malfunctioning gene. There are two ways genetic engineering is carried out. One is altering the genome in the egg cells or sperm which is called germ-line gene therapy. The other involves introducing a gene in nonsexual cells in the human body which is known as somatic cell gene therapy. The genetic changes brought about in a person will last a lifetime and would also be inheritable by his or her offspring.
The Pros of Genetic Engineering in Humans
1. Cure Ailments and Terminal Diseases
Genetic engineering can cure ailments or even save a person from incurable or terminal diseases. Human beings don’t have the same level of immunity. Genetic factors contribute to many diseases including cancer. Many diseases can be cured, prevented and made extinct with genetic engineering. Imagine if cancer can be a thing of the past and no one in the world would be vulnerable to any form of cancer. While that day may be far, yet the potential of genetic engineering cannot be ruled out or discarded. Genetic mutation that occurs naturally has shown that some people are more resistive to certain diseases and similarly some people are more vulnerable to certain diseases due to their genes. If the genes responsible for their immunity or vulnerability can be controlled or determined then every person in the world can be immune to certain diseases.
2. Enhance the Lifespan of Others
Genetic engineering can enhance lifespan. Not only can a person live longer but one can actually remain healthy, strong and agile for a much longer time. Genetic engineering can cure terminal ailments and thus increase the lifespan of the ailing. Healthy people can also have a longer lifespan. According to some accounts or estimates, human life can be easily in the range of hundred to a hundred and fifty years with the help of genetic engineering. That could be the norm. A simple example of this could be the telomeres. The shortening of telomeres in chromosomes leads to aging. If that can be stopped then aging can be slowed down which will not only make people look younger even when they are old but humans would live longer as well.
3. Improve Medications and Treatments
Genetic engineering will pave the way for better medications. Specific mutations in people will be diagnosable and the medications recommended can be in accordance with that. Today, genetics is not considered as a factor while prescribing drugs. That is one reason why people react differently to medicines and some take longer to recover while some recover quickly.
The Cons of Genetic Engineering in Humans
1. Potential for Negative Repercussion
A concerning aspect is the chain reaction that any gene alteration could have. No one knows if preventing the shortening of telomeres would actually increase lifespan or there would be some other reaction in the human body, at the cellular level or genetically that could actually curtain the lifespan. Everything in the human body is correlated, especially when we get down to the cellular and chromosomal level. If there can be a positive impact of a certain gene then surely there is the possibility of some negative impact as well.
2. Kill Genetic Diversity
Genetic engineering will naturally kill genetic diversity. That is not exactly a healthy thing. It is absolutely undesirable. Matching of different genes is crucial for biological evolution. If people start to have the same types of genes then that may pave the way for new kinds of diseases or quaint problems in the human body which we may not yet understand or even imagine.