Genetic engineering and human cloning via biotechnology

Genetic engineering is the process of using biotechnology to alter the genetic makeup of an organism. It aims to enhance the capabilities of the organisms beyond what is normal.

By Muhammad Ibrahim Noon

In research, organisms are genetically engineered to discover the function of certain genes. For example, an insecticide producing gene can be taken from a bacterium and inserted into the plant. It will make the plant capable of producing insecticide itself and will make it resistant to some pest insects.

Cloning is either illegal or considered unethical in almost all the countries of the world where the idea of cloning exits. Science always requires us to ask questions, hence on the topic of human cloning the question arises, “Why is human cloning required?” Many ethical issues are attached with the problem of human cloning as well which have resulted in its prohibition around the world. To make things clear I would like to shed some light on the process of human cloning and its types. So, basically two types of human cloning processes exist: reproductive cloning and research cloning. Both involve the egg cell of a woman being taken out and then its nucleus is removed. This cell is now termed as an e-nucleated cell now placed with a diploid non- reproductive cell which may be from the father, a total stranger or even the mother! Both the cells are given an electric charge that results in the nucleus of the somatic cell fusing into the e-nucleated cell. Now what happens is that the egg starts to divide and as a result, an embryo develops. If this embryo is implanted within the mother’s womb, chances are that she will give birth to an exact replica of the person the cell has belonged to. However, in research cloning a womb is not present but some scientists wish to create conditions that make the embryo grow into a person. Attempts made by scientists for human cloning have all failed in the past. Few scientists claimed to have cloned human beings by the reproductive manner but there are no proofs to corroborate such claims. Now firstly viewing the scientific problems related to cloning; “Dolly the sheep” was successfully cloned after 277 failed tries! Nevertheless, it has detrimental results when carried on human beings such as miscarriage, abnormal babies, underweight babies and even still birth. Moreover, humans have disturbed the natural cycles vastly and significantly because of the control they gained over time. Still, with that control the ethical sense of human beings was not developing at the same rate. Should we now play with this cycle as well? When an existing mechanism of reproduction is working very efficiently in “the Expansion and Domination” of the species. Such babies can also be used to obtain organs of importance or produce blood but then are we taking its consent to bring it in this world and carry out such abhorrent activities with it? Another question that rises is that; are human beings wise enough to genetically engineer themselves? This also includes the aspect of religion and God has designed do we have the authority to change ourselves? Another aspect of this is that in third world countries what can be the effects of such a powerful tool imagine babies being cloned and they are then trained their entire life for acts like prostitution or labour. In my opinion human beings should not be even be allowed to carry out experiments that directly or indirectly relate to human cloning because it is for our own safety and well-being there is no other side of the picture since the risks involving it are too great. Such ideas don’t threat nature but they pose a threat to change entire human civilizations.

 

 

Correspondingly, genetic engineering has certain limitations and ethical implications. There is a consensus that gene therapy should be limited to therapy: the correction of genetic diseases rather than enhancement. Since, gene therapy for enhancement would negatively impact what the society considers “normal” and thus promote discrimination towards those with “undesirable” traits. Allergens can be transferred from one food crop to another through genetic engineering of transgenic plants. Another concern is that pregnant women eating genetically modified products may endanger their offspring by harming normal fetal development and altering gene expression. High rate of health problems in cloned animals suggests that such an effort in humans would be highly dangerous for the mother in developing embryo and is likely to fail. Terrorist groups or armies could develop more powerful biological weaponry. These weapons could be resistant to medicines, or even targeted at people who carry certain genes and these might reproduce rapidly.

On the Contrary, a large section of the population support genetic engineering. Humans are afraid of anything they can’t understand. Human Cloning has a similar case which requires in depth research and countless tests but what happens is that since many people don’t know about it, they either call it unethical, immoral or even an unlikely possibility. Genetic Engineering does not have any ethical problem but there is fear of misuse and that is why no government passes any laws and regulations for cloning. Let’s take planes as an example. Humans simply don’t stop travel by plane just because one of it crashes. Even though cloning has a chance of failure of 98% but still the reasons for these abnormalities have been failures in reprogramming in the adult nucleus used for reproductive cloning, so that it fails to turn on the appropriate embryo-specific genes at the right times. To end this major flaw, requires proper programming in the adult nucleus for the formation of specific stem cells which can be done by repetitive tests to find the ideal programming of adult nucleus. For example, a sheep named Dolly was successfully cloned after 277 attempts! Reproductive cloning can provide genetically related children for people who cannot be helped by other fertility treatments. Cloning is a reproductive right and should be allowed once it is decided that it is no less safe than natural reproduction. Cloning can allow people to live up to 120 years old! Genetic Modification can help prevent the disease passed on from parent to children.

 

Consequently, Bacteria are genetically engineered to incorporate a human gene for the production of insulin into their plasmid. Replacing defective genes with the correctly functional gene’s from another organism of the same species. This is somatic gene therapy. Genetically Engineered crops are resistant to herbicides, fungi, bacteria and hence, have a longer lifespan. Besides, genetically engineered viruses allow for the production of vaccines to confer immunity. Also, the genes for growth hormone are injected into animal cells resulting in large growth of animals.

 

Genetic engineering is a possibility supported by countless advantages and it must be utilized by a country. Meanwhile, human cloning has serious risks involved and must not be allowed at all. For example, the Foreign Agricultural Services of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated that future collaboration projects between USA and Pakistan would include the use of genetically engineered maize crop.

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