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Designer babies..? Pet dinosaurs..? Most people would brush-off these ideas as mere science-fiction fantasies. But let’s explore the possibilities---Are these technologies actually achievable and teetering on the cusp of reality?
Even the most progressive achievements in genetic engineering have merely skimmed the surface of what this science could potentially afford us. We live in amazing times, but modern-day politics and bureaucracy often hinder research when it includes tinkering with genetics. These scientific fields are rife with ethical questions and concerns. Just as often as we may ask ourselves, “How could we ever consider (fill in controversial scientific research here)?”…as scientists we also must ask, “How couldn’t we?”
Despite calls for a moratorium on “embryo-editing” research in the U.S.A., a group of Chinese scientists decided to do their own thing. “They attempted to delete a gene for a blood disorder…from the DNA of 86 nonviable embryos. The experiment was successful in 7 embryos” (Popular Science, May 1 2015). The National Institutes of Health was displeased and made it known that they will not fund this type of research, stating it “is a line that should not be crossed” (Popular Science, May 1 2015). Federal research agencies have been quite conservative in regards to any kind of embryonic research.
Bioethicist, Christopher Gyngell, expresses a different perspective on this matter. Gyngell suggests that it could be unethical to prevent such research. Gyngell eloquently states, “There is no possible way that the gene which causes Tay-Sachs disease…will benefit future generations. We lose nothing by editing this gene out of the human lineage…What we ought to do is use this resource responsibly. We should harness its power to achieve good ends and restrict its use for purposes that are bad. This will not be achieved by simply withdrawing from research” (Popular Science, May 1 2015).
Now to the lighter side of genetic engineering---pet dinosaurs! Jack Horner is a renowned Paleontologist who has consulted on the Jurassic Park movies. Horner points out that humankind has been breeding animals for thousands of years. He states, “We modify cows, horses, cats and dogs…Maybe we’ll have dinosaurs as pets” (Popular Science, June 11 2015).
Horner goes on to discuss ideas on genetic modification of a hybrid dinosaur. He is quite matter-of-fact that this type of genetic engineering is current and that we are making all sorts of new, quirky animals (like Glow-fish). Horner believes that within the next 5-10 years, we could engineer an animal that closely resembles a dinosaur. Different groups have already created independent body parts: teeth, beaks, tails, arms---that’s half-a-dinosaur already! Horner reports that he is not picky and would be happy to see any dinosaur in the flesh. I agree---as long as the dinosaur is not too big or too hungry!
BY RACHEL C. OLSON
- Popular Science. “Citing Ethical Issues, U.S. Will Not Fund Embryo Editing.” PopSci Web May 1, 2015. Photo by Sam Kaplan.
< http://www.popsci.com/nih-director-says-hell-no-editing-human-embryos >
- Popular Science. “Real ‘Jurassic World’ Scientist Could Bring Back Dinosaurs as Pets.” PopSci Web June 11, 2015. Photo by Alex J. Berliner.
< http://www.popsci.com/science-behind-jurassic-world-closer-reality-youd-think >