The human genome project is a worldwide research effort with the goal of analyzing the structure of human DNA and determining the location of the estimated 100,000 human genes. The DNA of a set of model organisms is studied to provide the information necessary for understanding the functioning of the human genome. The information gathered by the human genome project is expected to be the source book for biomedical science in the 2lst Century and is of great value to the field of medicine. The scientific products of the human genome project will include a resource of genomic maps and DNA sequence information that will provide detailed information about the structure, organization, and characteristics of human DNA, information that constitutes the basic set of inherited instructions for the development and functioning of a human being. There are many benefits that can be gained from the human genome project; however, the project brings about much controversy in areas of employment, insurance, and social issues. Is genetic engineering a leap into the future or a leap toward destruction? The issues surrounding this project need to be scrutinized not only by the scientists working on the project, but also by lawmakers and the public in general. One of the major facts that people need to understand is the appearance of a gene does not predict the way a trait will be expressed physically. Looking into the future, lots of situations can arise from the availability of genetic testing. Some people may want to know if they are carriers of certain genes in order to make informed decisions about such personal matters as lifestyle, marriage, and childbearing.
On the other hand, some may prefer to live their lives without knowing. Having such specific knowledge about our health, there is going to be many people who want to use the testing for the benefit of their companies and even society. A new understanding of parts of the human genome may result in discrimination based on a persons genetic predisposition. Also, insurance companies may require people to submit to a genetic test before they could be covered. If the person applying is found to be unfit, it could go on his or her insurance medical report, such as a credit report, which would blacklist that person from ever getting coverage. Never mind the fact that genetic screening opens up the possibility of identifying a class of people that may become regarded as socially undesirable. These people might come to be outcasts in their own society. Labeled by their biological inheritance screening tests and the results they yield have the potential to damage or destroy a childs self-esteem, causing emotional harm, or altering the way the family views the child. Nonetheless, natural reproduction may become a thing of the past as people are allowed to pick out which egg and sperm they want to use to produce a child. Then, the only means of avoiding the birth of an impaired child is abortion. Even though there is much controversy over the human genome project, the fact that it could be very beneficial to individuals cannot be overlooked. Information about a genetic predisposition to a particular disease can alert individuals of the need to seek medical surveillance so that if the disease develops they may seek appropriate therapy at the earliest time. The genes associated with hereditary diseases such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, Huntingtons disease, neurofibromatosis, and retinoblastoma have recently been identified.
This is the first step in developing better genetic screening tests, new drugs, and genetic therapies to fight these illnesses. The information gathered from this project may in time develop genetic therapy to such a level that fatal flaws in human genetic makeup can be controlled or even corrected. In conclusion, the possibilities of the human gnome project are endless. Once the power to control the instructions, given to a single cell, are mastered anything can be accomplished. For example, genetic engineering could allow insulin to be created and grown in large quantities by using an inexpensive gene manipulation method of growing a certain bacteria. Also, the blood-clotting agent missing in people suffering from hemophilia could be created by genetic engineering. In the future, genetic engineering has the probability of fighting bacterial, and viral disease, along with controlling aging, generating vaccines, and providing replacement parts for humans. The fact that this research will benefit humanity is resounding; we just need to remember to handle our findings in such a manner that benefits all of society, not just those on top of the economical food chain. Also, persons should be able to decide for themselves if they can handle knowing what their genetic flaws are. The individuals right to privacy should remain supreme, and there should be laws set in motion to prohibit a person from being discriminated against because of genetic predisposition. If the proper steps are not taken now to safeguard the public we will end up encountering the same problems that we did with the Internet, having no laws for horrible crimes that were being committed.
Lee, Thomas F., The Human Genome Project: Cracking the Genetic Code of Life, Plenum Press: New York, 1991.
Human Genome Project Information, 2002 www.ornl.gov/TechResources/Human_Genome/home.html
Human Genome Project, Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 2000, www.EncyclopediaBritannica.com