Rationale and background
The growth and advancements of GM technology are rapidly evolving. The original claim stated that ‘genetic technology will benefit society in the future?’ This then led to form the more specific question, ‘will genetic modification technology affect human evolution positively or negatively in the future?’ The question was refined to make the focus point about one certain component of the advancements in GM (genetically modified) technology, leading to the final questions of ‘Will genetic modification technology affect human evolution negatively? The rapid advances in GM technology mean that scientists can replace the mutated and defective genes with more important and functional genes. Right now scientists are already testing the use of medicines made through the use of genetically modified organisms. The results of these studies have people saying that they fear that ‘disease-producing organisms used in some rDNA experiments might develop extremely infectious forms that could cause worldwide epidemics’ (Patra, n.d.) Another recent study that scientists have been looking deeper into is the process behind ‘designer babies.’ Trait selection and enhancement in embryos have already raised many moral issues involving both individuals and society. The first concern that people are having is that selecting traits may pose health risks that would not have existed previously or otherwise. The exact safety procedures are still currently under investigation as this is only a new form of technology. One of the main concerns often raised involves the fact that most genes have more than one effect on the human body. An example of this happened in the late 1990s when scientists found a gene relating to memory when this gene was modified in mice it greatly improved memory and learning, but it also causes increased sensitivity to pain (Simmons, 2008). If humans continue to research and use this type of technology to enhance and improve certain genes, this could have extremely detrimental effects on the future either short term or long term, which could then lead to affecting the evolution of humans.
Evidence and analysis
Transhumanism is the idea that humans can evolve new physical and mental capabilities, mainly using GM technology and science. The direction that human evolution will take now that scientists are constantly trying to find new ways to help and end the spread of diseases. ‘Evolution is the gradual genetic change of a species over time due to unequal reproduction among members.’ (learning, n.d.). ‘One of the greatest benefits of the science behind this field is the ability to help cure diseases and illness amongst unborn children. Having a genetic screening with a fetus can allow for the treatment of the unborn. Over time this could have impacts on the growing spread of diseases in future generations.’ (Patra S, 2015). Scientists have recently been trying to use the technology to test how to prevent Duchenne muscular dystrophy. DMD is characterized by progressive muscle weakness and a shortened life span, and there is no effective treatment. They injected Cas9, and HDR template into mouse zygotes to correct the disease-causing gene mutation. (Biology, 2014) The tests were partially unsuccessful since CRISPR/Cas9 can effectively generate NHEJ (Non-homologous end joining) mediated mutations in somatic cells, HDR (Homology-directed repair) correction is relatively ineffective in post-mitotic cells because these cells lack the proteins essential for homologous recombination. The scientists that experimented said that ‘the safety issues of the CRISPR/ cas9 system, especially for long term use, need to be evaluated in preclinical studies in large models of the disease.’ (Biology, 2014) ‘Scientists are also testing the same process with IBS. IBS biologists used a variation of the Cas9 protein (nickase Cas9, nCas9) fused with a protein called cytidine deaminase, a.k.a. Base Editor, which can substitute one nucleotide into another. The IBS team advanced the technique further by applying it to mouse embryos.’ (science, 2017) All of these techniques once tested properly and approved will be used within human embryos.
The number of people in the US who would want to have CRISPR technology used on their embryos or not. The statistics can show that half of the people surveyed would want to have CRISPR used on their child while half wouldn’t since it could create a higher risk of their child contracting a serious disease. This links to the overall research question that gene editing can create harmful diseases to the human population and could affect the human germline. This would then mean that human evolution would be affected negatively.
In the last section where it asked people ‘if it changed the genetic makeup of the whole population’ a lot, more people said that it would be less acceptable, and they wouldn’t do it. Again, the Information regarding whether it would change the genetic makeup of humans is not completely discovered as it is only new technology.
The information found about the studies and tests that scientists have been performing were all found on reliable and trustworthy websites. They have all recently been updated especially considering that CRISPR technology is only new. This meant that finding sources and statistics for the evidence was difficult because there are limited graphs to show the results, this is also because the science labs that were listed in articles for current testing relating to GM technology were all checked separately as well. The credibility of these sources was trustworthy, and they were all legitimate science labs and websites. To improve this investigation a better research question could have been used to conduct the research. A more specific question would mean that it would be easier to gather information and data, as the question used had such a wide range of options on what to investigate. Finding what scientific research had already been done and what testing had been used was difficult with such a general question.
In conclusion, the claim that genetic modification technology will benefit society is not fully supported. The question is not specific about how in particular it will benefit society. The research question used disagrees with the claim stating, ‘will gm technology affect human evolution negatively’ Based on the evidence that was found during the research genetic modification technology will become a lot more popular in the future, ore specifically CRISPR cas9. This means that more of the population may be at risk of the negative effect of gene editing. The evidence provided can show that because scientists are testing new ways to utilize GM technology it will soon become a more popular way to treat common diseases such as IBS and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The statistics found relating to the treatment of these diseases were quite limited since it is only a new procedure and there hasn’t been enough testing done to provide more statistics. The biggest fear is that when this technology replaces certain genes it could lead to effects on other important genes, which could then affect the future of humans.
- Biology, D. o. (2014). Prevention of muscular dystrophy in mice by CRISPR/Cas9–mediated editing of germline DNA. Retrieved from PMC: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4398027/
- learning, V. (n.d.). Future of human evolution. Retrieved from Visionlearning: https://www.visionlearning.com/en/library/Biology/2/Future-of-Human-Evolution/259/reading
- Licholai, D. G. (2018, 08 21). Is CRISPR worth the risk . Retrieved from Yale Insights: https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/is-crispr-worth-the-risk
- Patra S, A. A. (2015). J Biomedical Sci. . Retrieved from http://www.jbiomeds.com/biomedical-sciences/human-social-and-environmental-impacts-of-human-genetic-engineering.php?aid=7264: http://www.jbiomeds.com/biomedical-sciences/human-social-and-environmental-impacts-of-human-genetic-engineering.php?aid=7264
- Patra, S. (n.d.). Effects of genetic engineering. Retrieved from Annals of clinical and laboratory research: http://www.aclr.com.es/clinical-research/effects-of-genetic-engineering–the-ethical-and-social-implications.php?aid=5149
- Schmidt, F. (2018, 07 19). Getting real: CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing causes lots of mutations. Retrieved from DW: https://www.dw.com/en/getting-real-crispr-cas9-gene-editing-causes-lots-of-mutations/a-44742022
- science, I. f. (2017, February 17). First CRISPR single-nucleotide edited transgenic mice. Retrieved from Science Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170227120226.htm
- Simmons, D. (2008). Genetic inequality: Human genetic engineering. Retrieved from Nature Education .