The possibilities from the information that will be obtained from the project are virtually endless. It will most likely change many biological and medical research techniques and many of the practices used by our medical professionals today. The knowledge that will be obtained will help lead to new ways of diagnosing, treating, and possibly preventing diseases. Through the discovery of the human genome, the possibilities are endless for agriculture, health services, and new energy sources also. The end result of the HGP will be information about the structure, function and organization of DNA, as we know it today.
The DNA that is being used in the project is from four individuals (5). This can be done because humans differ in their genetic makeup by 0.1% of their DNA. This 0.1% accounts for all of the genetic variability that we see and recognize in our society today.
There are a number of different techniques that are used in the genome project to determine the sequence of DNA. One is the use of a new high resolution mass spectrophotometer equipped with vacuum ultraviolet photoionizer to sequence forrecene-tagged DNA(1). This new technology could eliminate the need for both gel electrophoresis and radioactive tagging while sequencing DNA segments. This method is accomplished by a primer being labeled with organometallic compound such as ferrocene. The new DNA segments that terminate at each occurrence of a particular DNA base are built up on the primer using the original DNA template. Later, the primer is read in a high resolution time of flight mass spectrophotometer where masses and sequences are determined.
Another technique is automated DNA sequencing. This process is used to speed up the task of DNA sequencing. There are a number of dyes that attach specifically to the bases of the DNA (2). The fragments of DNA are then sent through a glass tube that is filled with a transport gel. The fragments are then excited by the use of a laser and each dye will give off a certain color. These colors are then read by a computer, which will give the DNA sequence.
One of the potential benefits is in the field of molecular medicine. The benefits in this field could include better diagnosis of disease, early detection of certain diseases, and gene therapy and control systems for drugs (1). In the future there should be new treatments in molecular medicine that don't treat the symptoms but look at the causes of the problem at hand.
Another field that may reap the benefits of the HGP is the field of microbial genomics. This field may be able to find new energy sources, through the sequencing of a bacterial genome. This could lead to discoveries that are useful in energy production, toxic waste reduction, and industrial processing (2).
The HGP can also be very useful for the understanding of human evolution and human migration. It may help lead scientists to find out how humans have evolved and how humans are evolving today. It will also help to understand the common biology that we share with all life on earth. Comparing our genome with others may help to lead to associations of diseases with certain traits.
One last field that will undoubtedly receive monumental benefits from the HGP is the field of agriculture and livestock breeding. This technology could help to develop disease, insect, and drought resistant crops thus being able to produce more for the world. It would also help to produce healthier, more productive, and possibly disease resistant animals to be sent to market.
The privacy and confidentiality of genetic information could also lead to problems. For certain reasons, many people would want for no one to see what their genetic makeup is. There would also be concerns of psychological problems associated with knowing your own genetic makeup. If someone were to find out they have a good chance of developing a rare disease it would most likely drastically change their thinking on life. For reproduction, there could be compatibility problems of two individuals to have normal children. This would cause stress in a large number of people's lives.
Another issue that has risen is the use of gene therapy to treat disease. The use of a person's genome to tell if a person carries a genetic disease will help in the treatment of these diseases. In gene therapy a faulty or infected gene is replaced with a normal gene, so the individual does not display the trait that they were naturally born with. Many people feel that this is wrong because we are more or less taking over the course of nature, and they feel that this is not the natural way.
There are also clinical issues that need to be overseen with the HGP. When the project is finished, many new techniques will need to be taught to our health service people. There will also be a need to educate patients and the general public as to what is happening in these procedures. There will need to be genetic counseling for people undergoing genetic testing. Health care providers will need to know how to tell people the ramifications that go along with the testing that they will be undergoing.
The HGP will also cause concerns over commercialization of the technology. If there are only a few agencies that are working on the project, who will get the rights to the technology. The major concerns will most likely be over the patents and copyrights of the technology.
There are also critics of the HGP that contend that the high cost of the project is not justified. Some critics also say that the ability to diagnose a genetic disorder before any treatment is available causes more harm than good, because it will create anxiety and frustration among individuals (2). There is also the very big question of what is "normal". When and where will the use of genetic material be able to be used in society after the HGP is finished.
I believe that the project in the future will greatly change the way in which health care is provided. The effects should help to lessen some of the hurt and suffering that happens in today's society from genetic diseases. I also believe that there should be monitoring of the use of this information to cure or prevent an individual from having a certain ailment that causes them pain. I am not really sure where or how this monitoring should be implemented or how it would work but there should be some guidelines.
On the issue of privacy and fairness of the use of genetic information, I believe that an individual should hold the right to know if they are in danger of getting a disease. On the other hand I don't think that it is right for agencies such as insurers, employers, or schools to have personal information given to them so they are able to make discriminatory decisions based on a persons genome. This certain person most likely is not able to change their genes so they should not be discriminated against.
On the issue of who gets the profits from the project, I believe that we, as tax paying citizens should get the information on some sort of public access medium. Since the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health are funded by the U.S. government, we are actually footing most of the bill as taxpayers.
I think that it should be an individual's choice whether he or she would like to have a certain gene manipulated so that they will not have a certain disease. Parents who are expecting a baby should also have the right to see if they will have a healthy young child. When the baby is developing, I also feel that the parents should have a choice to see if there are any birth defects or other abnormalities of the fetus that would lead the child to live a miserable life.
The technology should not necessarily be used for personal gain. If we were able to do this it would get to a point to where people would more or less be clones of one another. This is where there should be some form of regulation put in place. I'm not so sure that it can totally be stopped. There will always be someone who will offer their services to help another person out for the right amount of money.
I think that the use of genetic engineering is very useful for prospective use in agriculture and animal production. The technology that will come in the future will be very useful to us as a society. The use of this information could help us to cure many diseases of animals and help to reduce the amount of damage done to our crops each year by insects and diseases. We would thus be able to produce more for the consumer with less input.
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