Parents should be able to genetically enhance their children

Newborn baby crying in operating room

HUMAN ENGINEERING?

Human genetic engineering is the alteration of an individual’s genotype with the aim of choosing the phenotype of a newborn or changing the existing phenotype of a child or adult.

It holds the promise of curing genetic diseases like cystic fibrosisGene therapy has been successfully used to treat multiple diseases, including X-linked SCIDchronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and Parkinson’s disease. In 2012, Glybera became the first gene therapy treatment to be approved for clinical use in either Europe or the United States after its endorsement by the European Commission.

It is speculated that genetic engineering could be used to change physical appearance, metabolism, and even improve physical capabilities and mental faculties like memory and intelligence, although for now these uses are limited to science fiction.

Pros

The science of genomics is able to identifying which genes cause specific diseases. Through genetic testing, it has become much easier to make a diagnosis for many genetic conditions. This testing supplies the ability to test pre-symptomatic individuals, at-risk individuals, and carriers to determine whether they will develop a specific condition. It is particularly useful to people who intend to have children, and want to ensure they will not pass their genetic condition to their offspring. Current advances include preimplantation genetic diagnosis, which allows for embryos to be created in vitro, and only those embryos that are not affected by a specific genetic disorder will be implanted in the woman’s uterus.

Another beneficial aspect of genetic engineering is the potential to cure numerous genetic diseases. The majority of genetic disorders are cause by single point mutations in the DNA. By somatic cell therapy, these diseases can be easily cured. Additionally, the implementation of germline cell therapy can not only cure many other genetic diseases, but can also prevent the passing of the disease to the next generation.

Genetic engineering also allows the potential for human enhancements. Humans value intelligence, beauty, strength, endurance, and certain personality characteristics and behavioral tendencies. If these traits were found to be due to a genetic component, humans could be improved to obtain those traits. Many people try to improve themselves already through diet, exercise, education, cosmetics, and plastic surgery. Humans try to do these things for themselves and parents try to provide these things for their children. Exercising to improve strength, dexterity, and fitness is a worthwhile goal. Pursuing education to increase mental capabilities is considered a praiseworthy act. Accomplishing these goals through genetics could be more efficient and completely worthwhile.

Cons

The techniques for genetic engineering have not yet been perfected. Problems occurring during the transformation of new genes could cause multiple or incomplete insertions or insertions into the wrong locations. Until the transformation process is perfected, mistakes during this phase have the potential to cause more harm than good.

Since genetic manipulations may one day be able to not only affect disease resistance, but could also affect appearance, intelligence, and personality, it is suggested that human genetic engineering could lead to genetic discrimination. Even though DNA is only one aspect of development, those who have undergone some form of genetic engineering may be enhanced to have qualities that are desired by the species. Optimization of human traits by genetic modifications may be considered a form of eugenics, and could lead to social issues between humans that have been “engineered” and humans that have not.

Concerns have also been raised over gene doping, which is defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency as “the non-therapeutic use of cells, genes, genetic elements, or of the modulation of gene expression, having the capacity to improve athletic performance”. Genetic enhancements could improve athletic performance by increasing muscle growth, blood production, endurance, oxygen dispersal or pain perception. This process has already been implemented in animal models, leading to mice with increased muscle mass and stamina. This procedure has no yet been perfected in large animal models, making it very risky for athletes to use these methods.

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