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Williams 1 James Williams Professor Dagher English 1102-017 19 March 2014

Genetic Modification and Human Cloning

Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century the world has been curious about the possibility of genetically altering humans. This has been shown through many movies and television shows that have explored the idea of a genetically altered human or clone of a human. I recently became curious with the idea of genetic modification because of a movie my Western History and Culture class watched called Blade Runner. In the movie the main character, Deckard, is given the task to hunt down four replicants who have high jacked a spaceship and returned to earth (Blade Runner). A replicant is a genetically altered clone that has been created to venture into space. The replicants are created to be perfect in almost every way, especially with superhuman-like abilities. The replicants are then cloned. The people of earth in movie this raises moral questions to whether creating artificial humans or cloning them is ethical. This movie got me interested in how close humans have come to being able to create an artificial human or a perfect person and whether it would be acceptable in todays society. The first place to start in my research would be: How does genetic modification work? In my initial research I discovered that this is not a simple subject. Genetically modifying humans to make a perfect person or clone someone is a complicated subject that has to be broken down onto a much simpler level. The starting place would be understanding cloning. There are two

Williams 2 different types of cloning (What is Cloning). The first type of cloning is called Artificial Embryo Twinning. Artificial embryo twinning is a relatively low-tech way to make clones. As the name suggests, this technique mimics the natural process that creates identical twins (What is Cloning). In nature, cloning, sometimes referred to as twinning, happens relatively early in the development of the embryo when it divides in half. The division happens when the embryo is only composed of a few cells. The embryos continue to develop and eventually are identical because they formed from the same fertilized egg (What is Cloning). Artificial cloning or twining is the same concept as natural cloning except that the division is carried out in a lab rather than inside of a mother. After the division occurs the embryos are put into a surrogate mother to develop into children (What is Cloning). This leads into the other type of cloning. The second type of cloning, which was used to clone the first mammal from an already living creature, is called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (What is Cloning). The first mammal to be cloned was a sheep named Dolly. To make Dolly, researchers isolated a somatic cell from an adult female sheep. Next they removed the nucleus and all of its DNA from an egg cell. Then they transferred the nucleus from the somatic cell to the egg cell. After a couple of chemical tweaks, the egg cell, with its new nucleus, was behaving just like a freshly fertilized egg (What is Cloning). After the egg was fertilized it was placed into another sheep to carry the egg. The cloning of a mammal made the news in 1997 and gave the world the knowledge that cloning mammals was possible (McGee 107). After learning that mammals such as sheep can be cloned, I discovered that cloning humans works in the same way. The real question is can we put the desired genes into a human to make a specific modification. Changing the DNA in a human can be difficult because DNA sequences are already established. There are two ways of making a specific modification to the mammal or in this case

Williams 3 a human. These two ways include gene targeting and gene addition. Gene addition is when DNA is added to the old DNA to change the organisms genetic make-up (Smith). Scientist add DNA through microinjections. Part of gene addition is the act of gene deletion. Gene deletion is exactly what it sounds like, the deletion of DNA. The other type of modification is gene targeting. The first step to gene targeting is to find what the DNA you want and where you want to put it (Thomson 1). When you place the new code into the sequence of DNA it must join in a homologous site (Smith). A homologous site is a location where the new DNA and the already existing DNA share a molecule (Smith). Once the new DNA is cemented in it must join in a process called homologous recombination (Smith). Homologous recombination is when the DNA fixes breaks in the strands of DNA or creates more strands of the newly introduced DNA (Smith). There are a few problems which make gene targeting difficult. The technology available for gene targeting is not as efficient as it needs to be for it to become effective (Smith). The easiest way that scientist will be able to genetically create a perfect human will be through manipulating an embryo. Human embryos are made up of stem cells which can be easily manipulated (Smith). Some people ask: What is the point of genetically altering humans? When most people think of genetic modification, they think about creating a perfect looking person. The purpose of genetic modification is much more than that. Think about the health of a person. Many children these days are born with diseases and mutation that might be life threatening or life altering. What if there was the possibility of that child being born normal and healthy because the doctors were able genetically modify them? This is the reason some scientists want to use genetic modification. The reason scientist have not made more progress with genetic modification or cloning on human embryos is because of safety risks and ethical reasons. One known and serious risk of

Williams 4 genetic modification may be genetic deletion and genetic mutation (Smith). When altering genes there is the possibility of deleting a set of DNA. There is also the possibility of having the genes mutate which could alter the embryo/organism in an unexpected way. This could have catastrophic effects on the embryo which could cause the child to be born with medical problems. If a problem is discovered when altering the gene the ethical question is brought up: Should we let this embryo live and suffer or terminate it. Although genetic modification is mostly done on embryos, some modification has been done on fully grown adults. In 1999 an eighteen year old man was exposed to gene therapy to try to correct a genetic problem (Savulescu). His genetic problem was ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, a disorder of nitrogen metabolism. He could control his disease with diet and medicine but research doctors wanted to do gene therapy to correct his genetic problem (Savulescu). Scientist injected genes into his liver but they did not help. The genes had a negative affect and he died three days later. This case made the news because it was the first death of someone that scientist had done a genetic experiment on (Savulescu). When he died a wrongful death lawsuit was filed which gave more negative reviews of genetic modification. This brings up the ethical questions behind genetic modification and cloning. In 2001 American researchers came out and said that the first cloned human embryos had been produced (McGee 57). The embryo survive past the six cell stage, stopped dividing, and died. The United States Congress took up the matter under the Bush administration and decided to put a ban on all human cloning and stem cell research (McGee 58). This took a step backwards since scientist were not able to advance their knowledge. The notion of cloning raises issues about identity and individuality, the meaning of having children, the difference between procreation and manufacture and the relationship between generations. It also raise new

Williams 5 questions about the manipulation of some human beings for the benefits of others, the freedom and value of biomedical inquiry, our obligation to heal the sick and the respect and protection owed to nascent human life (McGee 59). In the early twenty-first century the opinion of cloning in society is that it is dangerous and immoral, possibly because it is a rather unknown and scary subject. In my opinion, this may be one of the most controversial topics in modern history. Although stem cell research was banned in the last presidency, Obamas administration believes that stem cell research may be vital to understanding and treating disabling diseases and conditions (Exec). This in fact leads me to my conclusion that today the genetically modifying a person is possible but the point of doing research is to improve the lives of people not create the perfect person.

Williams 6 Works Cited "Blade Runner." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. Exec. Order No. 13505, 3 C.F.R. 2 (2009). Print McGee, Glenn, and Arthur L. Caplan. The Human Cloning Debate. Berkeley, Calif: Berkeley Hills Books, 2004. Print. Savulescu, Julian. "Harm, Ethics Commitees and the Gene Therapy Death." Journal of Medical Ethics. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. Smith, Kevin R., Sarah Chan, and John Harris. "Human Germline Genetic Modification: Scientific and Bioethical Perspectives." ScienceDirect. N.p., 2012. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. Thomson, Alison, and Jim McWhir. Gene Targeting and Embryonic Stem Cells. London: Garland Science/BIOS Scientific, 2004. Print. "What Is Cloning?" What Is Cloning? University of Utah Health Sciences Genetic Science Learning Facility, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.