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Is genetic manipulation and perfection ethical?


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#1 SciFiReal

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Posted 6 March 2013 - 09:16 AM

The advancement in genetics is obvious and it is exponentially going further and further. IMO, genetic superhumans might be be very possible. But will it be ethical and will it cause more problems, rather than solving them?

Here is an article I wrote for genetic perfection of our species on my own: http://scifi-real.co...ic-superhumans/


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#2 Consistency

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Posted 7 March 2013 - 01:27 AM

Geneticists don't know how all genes interact with one another in total.

 

Its not ethical. Its egotistical.

 

Modifying DNA might lead to new types of Cancers.

 

I read your article.. There is more to life than DNA.


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#3 Arete

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Posted 7 March 2013 - 03:00 PM

1) There's a fatal flaw with the idea of "perfection" in genetics/evolution, in that phenotypic/genotypic variation is the fundamental insurance against extinction for a population/species. When you artificially select individuals in a population, you reduce the population's genetic diversity. Not only can you bring out a bunch of undesirable recessive traits (such as selective breeding in dogs has done http://www.theage.co...81121-6e5a.html) a phenomenon genetically engineered organisms are not immune to (http://www.wired.com...nly-the-cloned/) but a genetically invariant population is at an elevated risk of extinction in a fluctuating environment (http://www.jstor.org...10.2307/2410812). There aren't any free lunches in evolution, specializing to be "perfect" in one set of environmental conditions leaves you vulnerable to inevitable fluctuations in those conditions

 

2) Your article seems to gloss over the fact that gene therapy is still very much a developing idea. Whilst clinical trials are providing some extremely positive results for some genetic diseases in some circumstances, we are still a very long way away from the treatment of these diseases being trivial - it would seem that no gene therapy treatments have made it past the clinical trial stage yet (http://en.wikipedia....ne_therapy#2012), meaning that the widespread applicability and long term efficacy of such treatments is still an unknown. To trivialize gene therapy as already achieved and use it as a logical leap to engineered "superhumans" would seem, at best, highly speculative.

 

3) Genome wide association studies are showing that many seemingly "simple" traits have complex genetic origins - in that small contributions from multiple genes, in association with developmental and environmental cues result in profound phenotypic changes (http://www.nature.co...bs/nrg2344.html).  This means that altering loci can have unpredictable and inconsistent outcomes for the end phenotype of a modified organism. In many cases, the environment you are exposed to may be far more important in the phenotype you end up with than the particular set of alleles you have at a given site. For example, adequate nutrition during childhood has a much larger effect on IQ than genes (http://journals.camb...a9e7b504bdd5319). This means that genetic engineering alone would be inadequate to generate "superhumans", dependent on how you define it.

 

Geneticists don't know how all genes interact with one another in total.

 

This statement is ambiguous enough to be meaningless. Do you mean all the genes in a genome? Which genome? What type of interactions?

 

Its not ethical. Its egotistical.

 

Again, this is an ambiguous false dichotomy - the ethics of an action are independent of whether or not the action is egotistical. Did you mean to say "It is unethical and egotistical?"

 

Modifying DNA might lead to new types of Cancers.

 

Staying with the theme of ambiguous statements, it might lead to a countless number of things, including cancer treatments. http://www.slate.com...ler_tcells.html

 

There is more to life than DNA.

 

Like?


Edited by Arete, 7 March 2013 - 06:26 PM.

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#4 Consistency

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Posted 7 March 2013 - 10:28 PM

This statement is ambiguous enough to be meaningless. Do you mean all the genes in a genome? Which genome? What type of interactions?

 
My first sentece doesn't have double meanings. You're angry cause its true.
 
The OP is talking about humans. So its obviously the human genome.
 

Again, this is an ambiguous false dichotomy - the ethics of an action are independent of whether or not the action is egotistical. Did you mean to say "It is unethical and egotistical?"

 
not ethical = unethical.
 
You're just being a perfectionist.
 

Staying with the theme of ambiguous statements, it might lead to a countless number of things, including cancer treatments. http://www.slate.com...ler_tcells.html

 
Gene therapy causes cancer... http://www.washingto...6-2005Mar3.html & http://news.bbc.co.u...lth/2954986.stm
 
Why should people be rewarded with gene therapy for their bad behaviour? Inactivity, living in a polluted environment and eating nutritionally deficient foods leads to diseases like cancer. Do you not see how egotistical and unethical it is to manipulate genes? Do you not see that you aren't getting to the root of the problem and just trying to fix the problem with a hacked patch?
 

Like?

 
You'll know when you have a spiritual intimate connection with another individual.


Edited by Consistency, 7 March 2013 - 10:28 PM.

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#5 Mr Monkeybat

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Posted 8 March 2013 - 06:29 AM

Would it be ethical to condem people to sufer and die from genetic diseases if there was a way to prevent them


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#6 ydoaPs

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Posted 8 March 2013 - 01:10 PM

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#7 Arete

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Posted 8 March 2013 - 01:31 PM

My first sentece doesn't have double meanings. You're angry cause its true.

 

I did not suggest it had double meanings, nor am I angry. I said it was ambiguous, and endeavored to get you to clarify. A task at which it seems I was unsuccessful.

 

Do you mean that we don't understand what all of the genes code for? How they are expressed? How they are differentially regulated? How the same gene can result in a variety of phenotypes? How does this lack of understanding inhibit our ability to modify the human genome? Given we've been able to successfully modify a range of other organisms, including other vertebrates (e.g. http://www.glofish.com/) are you suggesting there is a fundamental lack of understanding of the human genome in comparison with other genomes that have been successfully modified?

 

 

Gene therapy causes cancer...

 

As I stated, among a multitude of other things, genetic engineering can potentially cause cancer. Both your citations quote a single, anecdotal case. Blanketly stating "gene therapy causes cancer" is logically fallacious.

 

From your own citation: "Scientists in the United States have warned that some forms of gene therapy may cause patients to develop cancer."

 

 

Why should people be rewarded with gene therapy for their bad behaviour?

 

Now this might have made sense if we had of been discussing heart transplants or gastric bypass surgery, but in discussing treating genetic predisposition to certain medical conditions, it is nonsensical. The root causes of genetic diseases such as the disorder discussed in the article you yourself cited (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome (X-Scid)), are genes. Genes also play a fundamental role in predisposition to cancer. See oncogenes

 

 

You'll know when you have a spiritual intimate connection with another individual.

 

You mean like my wife? Personal attacks aside - and putting you initial statement back in context, it seemed as if you were suggesting that DNA is not fundamental to life. I would be interested to know if that was the initial context of the statement and if so, are you able to qualify it.


Edited by Arete, 8 March 2013 - 01:35 PM.

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#8 Consistency

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Posted 8 March 2013 - 05:28 PM

I did not suggest it had double meanings, nor am I angry. I said it was ambiguous, and endeavored to get you to clarify. A task at which it seems I was unsuccessful.
 
Do you mean that we don't understand what all of the genes code for? How they are expressed? How they are differentially regulated? How the same gene can result in a variety of phenotypes? How does this lack of understanding inhibit our ability to modify the human genome? Given we've been able to successfully modify a range of other organisms, including other vertebrates (e.g. http://www.glofish.com/) are you suggesting there is a fundamental lack of understanding of the human genome in comparison with other genomes that have been successfully modified?

 

It doesn't inhibit the ability of geneticists from modifying the human genome however don't you see how egotistical it is to modify the human genome of a living individual in the first place when there is a lack of understanding of the interactions in the whole genome?

 

Does modifying the human genome lead to changes of DNA in the sperm in accordance with the initial genome modification?

 

You may know what all the genes are for but there is a fundamental lack of understanding of how the genes work together in a whole with the environment and in symbiosis with commensal microorganisms.

 

As I stated, among a multitude of other things, genetic engineering can potentially cause cancer. Both your citations quote a single, anecdotal case. Blanketly stating "gene therapy causes cancer" is logically fallacious.
 
From your own citation: "Scientists in the United States have warned that some forms of gene therapy may cause patients to develop cancer."

 

You may cure one patient today but what about the offsprings of succeeding generations that carry the modified genes?


http://www.ourbodies...cerpt.asp?id=95

 

Now this might have made sense if we had of been discussing heart transplants or gastric bypass surgery, but in discussing treating genetic predisposition to certain medical conditions, it is nonsensical. The root causes of genetic diseases such as the disorder discussed in the article you yourself cited (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome (X-Scid)), are genes. Genes also play a fundamental role in predisposition to cancer. See oncogenes

 

Is "Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome" caused by inbreeding?

 

predisposition to cancer? The so called cancer genes need to be activated by a carcinogen in the first place. Diet and environment have everything to do with cancer.

 

A healthy diet supplies the bodies cells with the nutrients they require to defend themselves.

Example: http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/21128180 (lutein is found in edible leaves)

 

A healthy environment supplies the body with clean air instead a harmful environment like a city supplies the body with polluted air which activates cancer genes and also activates the cox-2 inflammatory enzymes.

http://carcin.oxford...26/11/1846.full

http://tpx.sagepub.c...ontent/32/6/650

 

You mean like my wife? Personal attacks aside - and putting you initial statement back in context, it seemed as if you were suggesting that DNA is not fundamental to life. I would be interested to know if that was the initial context of the statement and if so, are you able to qualify it.

 

If you have a spiritual connection with your wife.

 

No it wasn't my initial statement. This was... "I read your article.. There is more to life than DNA."


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#9 Arete

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Posted 8 March 2013 - 06:33 PM

don't you see how egotistical it is to modify the human genome of a living individual in the first place when there is a lack of understanding of the interactions in the whole genome?

 

No. We don't understand every possible drug interaction. That doesn't make the treatment of disease with drugs 'egotistical'.

 

 

Does modifying the human genome lead to changes of DNA in the sperm in accordance with the initial genome modification?

 

Not necessarily no. Sperm genes will only be altered if a) the patient is male and b) germ line cells are targeted.

 

In your previous example of treatments for X-scid, the patient's own white blood cells are extracted and a virus is to insert a healthy adenosine deaminase (ADA) gene into
them. These cells were then injected back into their body, and express a normal enzyme, curing the disease. No germ line modification occurs. http://en.wikipedia....mmunodeficiency

 

 

there is a fundamental lack of understanding of how the genes work together in a whole with the environment and in symbiosis with commensal microorganisms.

 

I would argue the opposite. There is an exponentially growing, large body of research which examines gene interaction. See a current copy of Genome Biology for examples. http://genomebiology.com/content. Your argument is also largely irrelevant - see drug therapy example above. What it is important to know in the introduction of a specific treatment, is how that particular change will behave in light of genotype/phenotype interaction.

 

There will likely always be things left to understand about how genomes work, as they are constantly changing and so are the environments they exist in, like almost all natural systems. To single out genetics as somehow abhorrent seems extremely hypocritical.

 

 

You may cure one patient today but what about the offsprings of succeeding generations that carry the modified genes?

 

Germ line engineering and genetic engineering are not synonymous terms. Equating the two results in a strawman argument. See x-scid example above.

 

 

Is "Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome" caused by inbreeding?

 

No.

 

"Mutations in nine different genes have been found to cause the human severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome." http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/15032591

 

 

The so called cancer genes need to be activated by a carcinogen in the first place. Diet and environment have everything to do with cancer.

 

Both statements are false:

 

Defective cell replication (i.e. cancer) is caused by genes, at the most fundamental level. Cancer can manifest simply due to certain allelic combinations without environmental interaction (i.e. in the absence of external carcinogens).

http://www.cancer.or...ions-and-cancer

 

Of course environmental factors play a role in cancer genesis and the activation of oncogenes, but to try and exclude the genetic elements of oncology is absolutely nonsensical at the most fundamental level. It's a ridiculous argument.

 

Can we drop the personal statements please? It would also seem that your initial statement in that context is irrelevant to the thread completely.


Edited by Arete, 8 March 2013 - 06:46 PM.

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#10 Consistency

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Posted 8 March 2013 - 10:15 PM

No. We don't understand every possible drug interaction. That doesn't make the treatment of disease with drugs 'egotistical'.

 
Who said anything about drugs?

Yes it is egotistical because the disease isn't treated, the disease is "managed" with drugs which have horrendous side effects, like death.
 

In your previous example of treatments for X-scid, the patient's own white blood cells are extracted and a virus is to insert a healthy adenosine deaminase (ADA) gene into them. These cells were then injected back into their body, and express a normal enzyme, curing the disease. No germ line modification occurs. http://en.wikipedia....mmunodeficiency

 
Its somewhat ethical if it cures a disease that someone is born with as long as it doesn't alter the germline as you state however wouldn't a person that is born with an immunodeficiency already have their germline mutated?

 

I don't condone rewarding bad behavior by treating a person who has abused their body with excessive alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc..
 

Both statements are false:
 
Defective cell replication (i.e. cancer) is caused by genes, at the most fundamental level. Cancer can manifest simply due to certain allelic combinations without environmental interaction (i.e. in the absence of external carcinogens).
http://www.cancer.or...ions-and-cancer
 
Of course environmental factors play a role in cancer genesis and the activation of oncogenes, but to try and exclude the genetic elements of oncology is absolutely nonsensical at the most fundamental level. It's a ridiculous argument.

 
Take your time reading the articles below.

Folate and cancer: how DNA damage, repair and methylation impact on colon carcinogenesis
http://link.springer...0545-010-9128-0
 
or if you don't have access to the journal...
 
Page 0 - http://link.springer...-9128-0/000.png
Page 1 - http://link.springer...-9128-0/001.png
Page 2 - http://link.springer...-9128-0/002.png
Page 3 - http://link.springer...-9128-0/003.png
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FOLIC ACID ROLE IN MUTAGENESIS, CARCINOGENESIS, PREVENTION AND TREATMENT OF CANCER
http://www.diagnosis...3&article_id=84 (PDF)
 
Folate, DNA methylation, and gene expression: factors of nature and nurture
http://ajcn.nutritio.../4/903.full.pdf
 
The little known (but crucial) difference between folate and folic acid
http://chriskresser....e-vs-folic-acid
 
Folate Supplementation: Too Much of a Good Thing?
http://cebp.aacrjour...t/15/2/189.full


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#11 Ringer

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Posted 9 March 2013 - 03:34 AM

I don't condone rewarding bad behavior by treating a person who has abused their body with excessive alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc..

Doesn't it seem egotistical to assume one shouldn't be helped because they undertook activities you personally disagree with.
 

Take your time reading the articles below.

Folate and cancer: how DNA damage, repair and methylation impact on colon carcinogenesis
http://link.springer...0545-010-9128-0

First part in the abstract:

Inappropriate diet may contribute to one third of cancer deaths. Folates, a group of water-soluble B vitamins present in high concentrations in green, leafy vegetables, maintain DNA stability through their ability to donate one-carbon units for cellular metabolism. Folate deficiency has been implicated in the development of several cancers, including cancer of the colorectum, breast, ovary, pancreas, brain, lung and cervix. Generally, data from the majority of human studies suggest that people who habitually consume the highest level of folate, or with the highest blood folate concentrations, have a significantly reduced risk of developing colon polyps or cancer. However, an entirely protective role for folate against carcinogenesis has been questioned, and recent data indicate that an excessive intake of synthetic folic acid (from high-dose supplements or fortified foods) may increase human cancers by accelerating growth of precancerous lesions.

So diet may contribute, and it both reduces and causes. It has to do with DNA stability and is a risk reward probability, not a definite. So your original statement that it is only environment and diet is not born out by the first section of the first paper you cite as evidence.
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#12 Arete

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Posted 9 March 2013 - 05:12 PM

Who said anything about drugs?

 

I did. The current predominate method of treating disease is through the use of chemotherapeutic agents, i.e. drugs. We do not, and probably cannot know what every single drug interaction in every single person will be, much as we do not and probably cannot know the outcome of every single gene interaction in every single individual and environment.

 

Ergo, if not knowing every single gene interaction makes gene therapy unethical, by extension of logic, this also makes the treatment of disease with drugs/vaccines also unethical. If so, you'd have to consider virtually all modern medicine unethical.
 

Yes it is egotistical because the disease isn't treated, the disease is "managed" with drugs which have horrendous side effects, like death.

 

This sweeping generalization is blatantly false in most circumstances. A vast multitude of chemotherapeutic agents cure disease - for example, the use of antibiotics to cure a tuberculosis infection. Also, most drug therapies do not come with "horrendous side effects, like death." Here's a list of 5,000 drug side effects. The majority do not have fatal side effects. http://www.drugs.com/sfx/

 

 

I don't condone rewarding bad behavior by treating a person who has abused their body with excessive alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.

 

Gene therapy is egotistical, but deciding based on your personal, subjective ideals who deserves medical treatment and who doesn't is not? And if we apply this, well, interesting logic in an objective way wouldn't you have more of an issue with say - bypass surgery to treat angina, or gastric banding to treat obesity than gene therapy to treat inherited illness which are entirely not a result of lifestyle choices?

 

 

 

wouldn't a person that is born with an immunodeficiency already have their germline mutated?

 

Every single human being has a "mutated" germline. On average, you have 60 novel mutations, in comparison with your parents. http://www.sanger.ac...011/110612.html

 

Take your time reading the articles below.

 

Given that your premise that genes do not play a role in cancer development is explicitly contradicted in the abstract of the article you are citing as proof of that statement - it might be an idea to take you own advice.


Edited by Arete, 9 March 2013 - 05:21 PM.

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#13 ydoaPs

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Posted 9 March 2013 - 08:18 PM

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Off-topic discussion moved to Speculations


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#14 The Peon

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 02:37 PM

I think any rational, sane society that cares about the advancement of our own species would be wise enough to accept the reality that we will eventually have to have a generation of "betters."  Is it not our desire as parents to see our children succeed more than we have?  To advance in all things beyond what we were able to?  I dare say that is a normal biological desire among a healthy individual. 


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#15 Tim the plumber

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 03:31 PM

If we use our (future) mastery of DNA to create perfect humans then that is not at all to say they will be identical.

 

Removing genetic failures and even adding additional super-human abilities (within normal physics, no invisable man) to create super-humans seems to be obvious destiny. I am alive due to medical science removing my tonsils, giving me drugs for colitis and sorting out my dentistry.

 

Why not have future generations born without such obvious faults and not have such problems as poor memory and bad spelling?


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