The Human Genome Project Book Report

This essay has a total of 1487 words and 6 pages.

The Human Genome Project

Scientists are taking medical technology to new heights as they race to map all of the
genes, nearly 100,000, in the 23 chromosomes of the human body. Along the way, they hope
to understand the basis of, and maybe even develop methods of treating certain genetic
diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Muscular Dystrophy. They plan to do this by identifying
the DNA sequence of an abnormal gene in which a disease originates and comparing it with
the data of a normal or healthy gene. The entire research project is entitled "The Human
Genome Project."

"The Human Genome Project" is a large scale project being conducted by more than 200
laboratories, with even more researchers and labs having joined in. Most of the labs and
researchers are located in France and the United States. The project started in 1990 and
was slated to take 15 years and cost $3 billion in U.S. money for the entire project
coming to roughly $200 million per year. Federal funding for the project is nearly 60% of
the annual need. This has created some funding problems for the project. There also have
been technological advances and discoveries that have helped to speed up the project. This
automation may help to reduce the cost and help the project to meet its objectives ahead
of schedule. The project was estimated to have detailed maps of all of the chromosomes and
know the location of most of the human Genes by 1996.

Researchers have successfully located the gene and DNA sequence for Huntington's Disease
on Chromosome 4 and have created a genetic test to determine if a person carries this
gene. "The child of a person with Huntington's has a 50% chance of inheriting the gene,
which inevitably leads to the disease." Once an individual acquires the gene, it is only a
matter of time before they acquire the disease. Because the medical costs of treating such
persons in terminal illnesses are extremely high, insurance companies who want to stay in
business see this genetic test, and others like it, as an opportunity to screen
prospective clients for the probability of such diseases. Some people feel that this
information gives insurance companies unfair advantage over those covered by medical
insurance and point out that release of genetic information to insurance companies puts a
severe disadvantage on the person who is screened, as well as violates the patients right
to privacy. If this genetic information is not safegua

rded as confidential for the patient's and doctor's knowledge alone, then the patient can
be labeled as undesirable and the patient may not be able to receive insurance coverage at
any price. This also brings up other ethical questions. "Does genetic testing constitute
an invasion of privacy, and would it stigmatize those found to have serious inborn
deficiencies? Would prenatal testing lead to more abortions? Should anyone be tested
before the age of consent?"

Obviously, many genetic advancements are to come of this research. One biotechnology that
will benefit from genetic testing is genetic engineering. It too, may have many social
implications depending on what is created from such experimentation.

Gene Therapy is one "spin-off" that has greatly benefited Gene-mapping. It utilizes
genetic engineering to treat genetic disorders by "introducing genes into existing cells
to prevent or cure diseases" . Most of the methods are still in the experimental stages
and have yet to be approved by the FDA. One example would be in a proposed treatment for a
brain tumor. Scientists would take a herpes gene and splice it in to a nonvirulent virus.
Viruses and liposomes have an uncanny ability to navigate through cell membranes. The
virus is then placed into a laboratory animal to reproduce itself, and after reproduction,
is injected into the human's brain tumor. The virus is supposed to invade the tumor cells.
Thus, the herpes enzyme will render the tumor vulnerable to drugs used to cure herpes,
killing the tumor, the virus, and the animals' cells used to manufacture the virus.

With this and other ideas springing out from the "medicine cabinet", many researchers are
optimistic about the results of their research. There is also a direct correlation of the
sequencing of genes and production of effective drugs on diseases which may have different
strands of defective genes, such as Alzheimer's. Locating these genes would be crucial to
synthesizing a product to affect that specific location in the gene. The director of the
gene-therapy program at the University of Southern California, Dr. W. French Anderson
states, "Twenty years from now, gene therapy will have revolutionized medicine. Virtually
every disease will have it as one of its treatments." Such an impact on medicine would
take much longer to occur with "hit and miss" tactics, rather than methodically mapping
out the blueprint for the body.

Continues for 3 more pages >>




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