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brave new world drugs essay

brave new world drugs essayBrave new world drugs essay -These innovations give us the power to predict certain risks to our health, eliminate deadly diseases, and ultimately transform ourselves and the whole of nature.In June 2000, President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the completion of the first draft of the human genome.Faced with varying estimates, the average customer might conclude that contradictory information is worse than no information at all.The problem with a gene drive is that it is essentially a biological bomb that could have all sorts of unintended consequences.These pages are not dry or abstract—Doudna uses her own shifting positions on these questions as a way for the reader to explore different possibilities.This is the technical definition of eugenics and might seem shocking, since eugenics is forever associated with the forced sterilization of the mentally ill and Native Americans in the US or the murder of those deemed genetically defective by the Nazis.Hostility to such discrimination should become a basic moral principle shared by societies around the world.But the ability to use genetic testing when deciding whether or not to have children is clearly a form of soft eugenics, albeit one carried out voluntarily by those affected and clearly leading to a reduction of human suffering.At the beginning in 2013, three groups of researchers, from the University of California at Berkeley (led by Jennifer Doudna), Harvard Medical School (led by George Church), and the Broad Institute of to introduce additional control elements—for example to engineer a gene so that it is activated by light stimulation.Global regulation of gene drives—much as we have global regulation of other potentially dangerous technologies such as civilian air travel or nuclear power—is crucial, but many governments, and especially the current US administration, have little appetite for international regulation.An apparent solution in one part of the world might turn into a catastrophe in another, as manipulated insects and pathogens move unhindered across frontiers and enter new ecosystems.Over the last couple of years, following meetings with patients suffering from genetic diseases, Doudna has shifted her position, and now feels that it would be unethical to legally forbid a family to, say, remove a defective portion of the gene that causes Huntington’s disease from an embryo, which otherwise would grow into an adult doomed to a horrible death.The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 made it illegal for US medical insurance companies to discriminate on the basis of genetic information (although strikingly not for life insurance or long-term care).We are not on the verge of the creation of a master race.The story of is a case study in how scientific inquiry that is purely driven by curiosity can lead to major advances.(In fact, in general only a few motifs are roughly repeated within each “palindrome.”) Eventually, these sequences were given the snappy acronym sequences, the microbe can recognize an invasion by that virus and activate Cas proteins to snip it up.Whether these developments excite us or appall us, we cannot unlearn what we have discovered.What caused that rupture has not been made public, and Doudna and Sternberg give no hints.Since many parents opted not to have an invasive test for fear of miscarriage (in the UK the figure was around 40 percent), it is reasonable to expect that an increased rate of identification of fetuses with Down syndrome will lead to more abortions.Reassuringly, both A Crack in Creation and DNA Is Not Destiny show that these eugenic fantasies will not succeed—such characteristics are highly complex, and to the extent that they have a genetic component, it is encoded by a large number of genes each of which has a very small effect, and which interact in unknown ways.brave new world drugs essaySome diseases are indeed entirely genetically determined—Huntington’s disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and so on.If we make the mosquito inhospitable to the malaria parasite, we might find that, just as with the overuse of antibiotics, the parasite mutates in such a way that it can evade the effects of the gene drive; this change could also mean that it is immune to our current antimalarial drugs.You spit in a tube, send it off to the company, and after a few days you get your results.The second half of A Crack in Creation deals with the profound ethical issues that are raised by gene editing.Initially, the Berkeley and Broad teams were working together on the commercialization of the technology, but something broke down in their relationship, and the current patent dispute is the consequence.The book is required reading for every concerned citizen—the material it covers should be discussed in schools, colleges, and universities throughout the country.(Genetic changes produced by all currently envisaged human uses of , for example on blood cells, would not be passed to the patient’s children because these cells are not passed on.)Although laws and guidelines differ among countries, for the moment implantation of genetically edited embryos is generally considered to be wrong, and in 2015 a nonbinding international moratorium on the manipulation of the human germline was reached at a meeting held in Washington by the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the Royal Society of London, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.The plotline of a techno-thriller may be writing itself in real time.It is extremely difficult to obtain reliable data on how often identification of Down syndrome in a fetus has led to a decision to terminate a pregnancy, but a recent study in Massachusetts suggested that prior to the introduction of the safer test in 2011, around 49 percent of such pregnancies were aborted.At the moment, there are no regulations governing if and how gene drive technology should be deployed.During the 2000s, Clinton’s vision was slowly put into practice, beginning with the development of tests for genetic diseases.However, she often offers no clear way forward, beyond the fairly obvious warning that we need to be careful.These contesting histories seek to influence not only who will get what seems like an inevitable Nobel Prize for the discovery, but above all the fortune that can be made, for individuals and institutions, from the patents to Frustratingly, Doudna and Sternberg say little about the patent issue, which is currently the focus of a complex legal case between the University of California and the Broad Institute over which group of researchers can rightfully license -Cas9 in any cell, which, if supported by the courts, would mean that any researcher wishing to use the technology would have to get licenses from both Berkeley and the Broad Institute.But for the vast majority of diseases, our future is not written in our genes, and the results of genetic tests can be misleading. People have a hard time interpreting this kind of information and deciding how to change their lifestyle to reduce their chance of getting the disease, if such an option is already speeding up scientific discovery, making it possible to manipulate genes in organisms and providing stunning insights into evolution, such as last year’s study by Neil Shubin at the University of Chicago that explored how fish fins were replaced by feet in land vertebrates nearly 400 million years ago.But both of these apparently anodyne processes turn out to raise important ethical issues.More fundamentally, it can be argued that it is inherently wrong to patent discoveries made through publicly-funded research. The Berkeley team is appealing the initial decision; patents in other areas of the world, including Europe, have yet to be decided; other institutions have also filed patents that have yet to be examined in court; and the use of alternative enzymes that are more efficient than Cas9 may render the whole process moot.There appear to be few limits to how sequences to specific cells in order to change their genes.Community and patient groups need to understand the implications of this technology and help decide how it should and should not be applied, while politicians must confront the dramatic challenges posed by gene editing.It works in pretty much every species in which it has been tried and is currently undergoing its first clinical trials. In A Crack in Creation, one of the pioneers of this technique, the biochemist Jennifer Doudna of the University of California at Berkeley, together with her onetime student Samuel Sternberg, describes the science behind and the profound ethical questions it raises. brave new world drugs essay Yet it seems inevitable that the world’s first baby will be born sometime in the next decade, most likely as a result of a procedure that is intended to permanently remove genes that cause a particular disease.But as Steven Heine, a Canadian professor of social and cultural psychology who undertook several such tests on himself, explains in DNA Is Not Destiny, that is where the problems begin.For example, Doudna was initially deeply opposed to any manipulation of the human genome that could be inherited by future generations—this is called germline manipulation, and is carried out on eggs or sperm, or on a single-cell embryo.Part of the problem is that this is effectively a global question—insects travel easily, and they and the diseases they transmit can mutate as they go.Well-meaning biohackers are already selling kits over the Internet that enable anyone with high school biology to edit the genes of bacteria.Whether you want to be told by e-mail that you will develop a life-threatening disease is something you need to think hard about before doing the test.As these tests have become widespread, ethical concerns have begun to surface.Lander’s article was widely seen as unfairly emphasizing the work of the Harvard researchers Zhang and Church and downplaying the contribution of Doudna and Charpentier.Direct-to-consumer testing is now commonplace, performed by companies such as 23and Me (humans have twenty-three pairs of chromosomes).The other, which is only dimly understood by the general public, is our newfound capacity to modify genes at will.Unfortunately, her only solution is to suggest that we should start planning for international guidelines governing germline gene editing, with researchers and lawmakers (the public are not mentioned) encouraged to find “the right balance between regulation and freedom.”The failure to resolve the issue of how to regulate gene-editing technology is even more striking when Doudna and Sternberg describe what they acknowledge is the most dangerous potential application of their technique: the deployment of what are known as gene drives, especially in species with short generation times, such as insect pests.As Heine puts it, “The oracle’s crystal ball is made of mud.”More troublingly still, however imperfect its predictive value, the tsunami of human genetic information now pouring from could be used against us.If you have the faulty gene, you will eventually have the disease.At the beginning of April, 23and Me received approval to sell a do-it-yourself genetic test for ten diseases, including Parkinson’s and late-onset Alzheimer’s.However, the book also describes the work of the many laboratories around the world that contributed to the breakthrough.Over 300,000 children die each year of malaria; gene drives could potentially save them by altering the mosquito’s genome.These discrepancies can be explained by the different criteria and databases used by each testing company.Meanwhile, the alternative approach of eradicating the mosquito from a particular environment, as Doudna and Sternberg point out, may lead to unexpected changes in the ecology of the region—we simply do not know enough about ecology to be able to predict what will happen.If genes end up affecting health insurance payments, some people might choose not to take these tests.will soon be applied to health care, making some previously lethal or debilitating diseases a thing of the past. brave new world drugs essay In experimental organisms this can provide an extraordinary degree of control in studies of gene function, enabling scientists to explore the consequences of gene expression at a particular moment in the organism’s life or in a particular environment.When a gene drive is used, the frequency of the altered gene increases exponentially with each generation, rapidly flooding the whole population.In recent years, two new genetic technologies have started a scientific and medical revolution.In the last few years, genetic testing has entered the commercial mainstream.Claims that a gene drive that goes wrong could be reengineered (this is facilely called “undo” by its advocates) ignore the fact that other species might have been irreversibly damaged by the initial genetic change. A vaccine against malaria might eventually become an ecologically safe alternative, but the advocates of gene drives understandably argue that if we carry on with our current approach, using insecticides and bed nets, malaria will continue to kill those hundreds of thousands of children each year, together with thousands more who are infected with other mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika, dengue, West Nile virus, and chikungunya.Much of the interest in such tests is based not only on the claim that they enable us to trace our ancestry, but also on the insight into our future health that they purport to provide.This has led to criticism from families with Down syndrome children, who understandably want to emphasize the joy they feel living with a child who has the condition.Nevertheless, Doudna does accept that there is a danger that the new technology will “transcribe our societies’ financial inequality into our genetic code,” as the rich will be able to use it to enhance their offspring while the poor will not.With the best of intentions and, for the moment, the best of outcomes, we have drifted across a line in the sand.The advent of a safe way to detect Down is a positive development (in the UK it is predicted that the test will prevent up to thirty invasive test–induced miscarriages each year), but some women feel that its simplicity means they are being inadvertently pressured into having a test for Down, and potentially into having an abortion if the test result is positive.A Crack in Creation inevitably focuses on Doudna’s work, providing insight into her own feelings as the implications of slowly dawned on her and her principal collaborator, the French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier.It is hard to imagine anything more preexisting than a gene that could or, even worse, will lead to your getting a particular disease; and under such a health system, insurance companies would have every incentive to find out the risks present in your .If this component of the Republican health care reform becomes law, the courts may conclude that a genetic test qualifies as proof of a preexisting condition.The test detects tiny amounts of fetal in the mother’s bloodstream, and in the US it has largely replaced the widespread use of invasive alternatives (amniocentesis or chorionic villous sampling, in which cells are taken from the placenta) that involve a risk of miscarriage.Beginning in the 1980s, scientists noticed that parts of the genomes of microbes contained regular sequences that were repeated and consisted of approximate palindromes.According to a White House press statement, this achievement would “lead to new ways to prevent, diagnose, treat, and cure disease.” Many scientists were skeptical, but the public (who footed much of the $3 billion bill) probably found this highly practical justification more acceptable than the mere desire to know, which was in fact a large part of the motivation of many of the scientists involved.Gene drives are artificial bits of techniques in which modified genes spread at a very slow rate and easily disappear from the gene pool.Some of these technologies are relatively straightforward, such as the new blood test for Down syndrome or the Dor Yeshorim genetic database for Jews, which enables people to avoid partners with whom they might have a child affected by the lethal Tay-Sachs disease (particularly prevalent in Ashkenazis).Rochman navigates these difficult waters with skill and compassion, drawing on conversations with families and physicians and setting out the ethical challenges and the range of solutions adopted by different people, without being preachy or moralistic.This is the technology that scientists have been proposing as a way of rendering all mosquitoes sterile or preventing them from carrying malaria, and it could clearly have an enormous effect on the epidemiology of some of the most deadly diseases. brave new world drugs essay Faced with varying estimates, the average customer might conclude that contradictory information is worse than no information at all. brave new world drugs essay

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