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Genetic Engineering, Stem
Cell Research, and Human
After reading this chapter, you will be able to:
13.1 Explain the difference between positive and negative genetic
13.2 Evaluate the ethical issues involved in stem cell research.
13.3 Evaluate the ethical issues involved in human cloning.
Some of the topics of bioethics may seem too technical (or too farfetched to be discussed in a contemporary moral issue course); I,
myself, thought this might be the case. I believed it might be too
technical or simply too far removed from our everyday experiences
to be pertinent to the students in the course. Many of the topics
seemed like an episode of X-files as opposed to actual everyday life
to be relevant to students.
In hindsight (with the benefit of some research), I see that nothing
could have been further from the truth. A little empirical
investigation determined that scientists were genetically modifying
food, screening the DNA of humans before birth, cloning animals,
and creating plant/animal hybrids
Types of Genetic Engineering
Negative-Correct a genetic defect
Positive-Make a life-form better. AKA, Eugenics- make
improvements upon organism.
Types of Genetic Therapy
Germ line Therapy
Somatic therapy is a type of genetic therapy that only affects the
Changes are not passed on to any subsequent generations or off
Germ Line Therapy
Germ line therapy is a type of genetic therapy that not only affects
the individual but also the off spring.
Changes are passed on to subsequent generations.
Splicing is a method where genes from one organism are
“spliced” into the DNA of another organism.
This is the most common method of genetic engineering.
“Can we do better than God?”
“Decisions: the Genetic Supermarket”
Argues that we cannot get it better than God.
His main point is that if we make everyone with superhuman powers
and abilities the world will become a dramatically different and
radically worse place.
The awe of human creation and achievement will be lost, with
everyone excelling at everything.
Argues that both positive and negative genetic engineering are
He employs the philosophical argument of Robert Nozick, a
Most libertarians are against any government interference in the
private affairs of citizens, but Nozick recognizes the inherent
dangers in genetic engineering and suggest a system of
government regulation at the “genetic supermarket”.
In the genetic supermarket parents would have a limited voice in
opting for genetic engineering of both positive and negative
The government would simply ensure that no dangerous
modifications were made.
The Council for Responsible Genetics
Opposes the use of germ-line therapy in humans. Further any
changes made to an organism at an embryonic stage have the
potential to be passed on to future generations, like Germ line
The goal of cleansing the gene pool of recessive genes and to
improve the human organism would take thousands of years.
Further, such benefits would only be realized by families and not by
the population as a whole.
Dolly the Sheep
In 1997 Scientist in Scotland cloned the first mammal- Dolly the
sheep. Not everyone was pleased.
In 2003 Dolly passed away from complications related to her
$50,000 to Clone Your Cat!
In 2002 scientist cloned the worlds first cat.
In 2004 a woman paid $ 50,000 to have her dead cat cloned.
Choose The Sex of Your Baby!
In vitro Fertilization has been used for years to help couples have
PGD- Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis can be used to sort
embryos before they are implanted.
Choose Your Trait
Splicing is a method where genes from one organism are
“spliced” into the DNA of another organism. This is the most
common method of genetic engineering.
Gene splicing improves pork farm waste
In the last few years, scientists at Ontario’s University of Guelph
have created Enviropigs™, a line of transgenic pigs containing
both mouse and bacterial chromosomes; the pigs cost less to
feed and produce less noxious manure.
The USDA now certifies all food that has an organic label to be
What it means: Organic food is produced without using most
Fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge;
Bioengineering; (genetic Engineering.)
Which means conventional foods may have all of these.
To get the seal…
Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Governmentapproved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to
make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet
USDA organic standards.
Organic Food Contaminated
A variety of foods marked ‘organic’ or ‘GM-free’ sold in the United
Kingdom have been found to contain genetically modified (GM)
Researchers found that out of 25 organic or health food products
that should have been GM-free, 10 contained GM soy.
Mix and Match Crops
The United States and Argentina, two of the largest soy producers in
the world, produce mostly GM soy, and GM-free crops are often
mixed with GM crops after harvesting.
Further, seeds that are supposed to be GM-free can contain from 1
percent to 2 percent GM varieties.
Over 60 percent of processed foods sole in supermarkets contain
Researchers suggest that it will become increasingly difficult to keep
organic products GM-free and even say that the problem will be 10
times worse in just one year.
Embryonic- created by means of in vitro fertilization. They are
harvested after 5-6 days from a cell know as a blastocyst.
They do not come from aborted fetuses.
They have the potential to change into any type of cell found
Adult – found in bone marrow. Harvested at any time in a
adult person’s life.
Potential to become only a limited number of specialized
Embryonic Stem cells the potential to develop into many different
cell types in the body.
Theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the
person or animal is still alive.
Each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become
another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle
cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
Two Important Traits
Stem cells have two important characteristics that distinguish them
from other types of cells.
They are unspecialized cells that renew themselves for long periods
through cell division.
They can become cells with special functions such as the beating cells
of the heart
For Over 20 Years
Scientists discovered ways to obtain or derive stem cells from early
mouse embryos more than 20 years ago.
In 1998, they discovered how to isolate stem cells from human
embryos and grow the cells in the laboratory.
These are called human embryonic stem cells
Embryonic Stem Cells (continued)
Embryonic Stem Cells, are derived from embryos that develop from
eggs that have been fertilized in vitro- in an in vitro fertilization
clinic—and then donated for research purposes with informed
consent of the donors.
They are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman’s body.
The embryos from which human embryonic stem cells are derived
are typically five or six days old and are a hollow microscopic ball of
cells called the blastocyst.
Adult Stem Cell
An undifferentiated cell found in a differentiated tissue that
can renew itself and (with certain limitations) differentiate to
yield all the specialized cell types of the tissue from which it
For example, an adult stem cell found in the liver could become
any type of cell found in the organ.
In All Parts of Our Body
Adult tissues, such as bone marrow, muscle, and brain, contain
adult stem cells that can generate replacements for cells that are
lost through normal wear and tear, injury, or disease.
Recently a comatose patient regenerated neural tissue. This was
documented in the by scientist.
This could be a result of stem cells.
Adult Stem Cells (continued)
The primary roles of adult stem cell in a living organism are to
maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found.
Some scientists now use the term somatic stem cell instead of adult
Unlike embryonic stem cells, which are defined by their origin (the
inner cell mass of the blastocyst), the origin of adult stem cells in
mature tissues is unknown.
History of Adult Stem Cells
In the 1960s, researchers discovered that the bone marrow contains
at least two kinds of stem cells.
Hematopoietic stem cells form all the types of blood cells in the body.
Bone marrow stromal cells were discovered a few years later. Stromal
cells are a mixed cell population that generates bone, cartilage, fat,
and fibrous connective tissue.
Adult Stem Cells in The Body
Adult stem cells have been identified in many organs and tissues.
There are a very small number of stem cells in each tissue.
Stem cells are thought to reside in a specific area of each tissue
where they may remain (non-dividing) for many years until they are
activated by disease or tissue injury.
The adult tissues reported to contain stem cells include brain, bone
marrow, peripheral blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, skin and
The Promise of Stem Cells
Some of the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and
birth defects, are due to problems that occur somewhere in this
A better understanding of normal cell development will allow us to
understand and perhaps correct the errors that cause these
Embryonic Stem Cell Therapies
Scientists have been able to do experiments with human embryonic
stem cells (hESC) only since 1998, when a group led by Dr. James
Thompson at the University of Wisconsin developed a technique to
isolate and grow the cells.
Federal funds to support hESC research have been available since
only August 9, 2001, when Former President Bush announced his
decision on Federal funding for hESC research.
Former President Bush on Stem Cells
“Research on embryonic stem cells raises profound ethical
questions, because extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo,
and thus destroys its potential for life. Like a snowflake, each of
these embryos is unique, with the unique genetic potential of an
individual human being.”
Federal Funding for Existing Cells
“As a result of private research, more than 60 genetically
diverse stem cell lines already exist. They were created from
embryos that have already been destroyed, and they have
the ability to regenerate themselves indefinitely, creating
ongoing opportunities for research. I have concluded that we
should allow federal funds to be used for research on these
existing stem cell lines, where the life and death decision has
already been made.” – Former President Bush
The ban on Stem Cell funding was lifted by President Obama
Michael J. Fox’s View
“Stem cell research is a critical pathway to a cure… Stem cells can
be used for cell replacement therapy, to actually produce neurons
that have been lost.
You can’t do research on living human neurons. But you can use
stem cells to create them and study how they work and the impact
of various drugs. It’s huge.”
Stanford University Scientist Irving
Warns that the country risks falling behind South Korea, China,
Britain and Colombia and other countries in biomedical research if
the Bush administration and Congress continue to restrict embryonic
stem cell research for philosophical and religious reasons.
Historically, Regulation . .
In the past, the United States regulated, but never banned,
In contrast, Russia did ban research and fell decades behind in the
1930s when it banned genetics research.
Stem Cells, Promise and failure
Results of stem cell transplants in rats have been mixed.
So research appeared to show it was successful
Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York
experimented with rats which had a condition mimicking Parkinson’s
When treated with mature neurons which had been created from
human embryonic stem cells, they recovered all their lost motor
Cell Replacement in Rats
Ten weeks after the transplant, the rats’ brains were examined. To
the dismay of the researchers, only about one-fifth of the
transplanted cells were now producing dopamine (the chemical
lacking in patients with Parkinson’s).
The rest had begun dividing uncontrollably into benign brain tumors.
Cell Replacement in Rats (2)
“First, the number of neurons producing dopamine fell sharply after
one month, even though they had been “highly enriched” and
Second, “their persistent, uncontrolled and grossly homogeneous
expansion over a 10-week span before the animals were killed
nonetheless suggested graft-associated tumorigenesis”.
And it seemed clear, too, that the problem was not contamination
by undifferentiated embryonic stem cells. The very cells which were
supposed to cure caused the tumours.
Cell Replacement in Rats (3)
The experiment provokes many questions, as the researchers do not
know what would happen to the cells after 10 days. But they urge
caution for therapeutic applications, “given the phenotypic
instability and potential for undifferentiated donor cell expansion”. ~
Nature Medicine Sydney Morning Herald.
Stanford University Scientist,
Warns that the country risks falling behind South Korea, China, Britain and
Colombia and other countries in biomedical research if the Bush
administration and Congress continue to restrict embryonic stem cell
research for philosophical and religious reasons.
“Cloning will help us put an end to so many diseases, give infertile
men the chance to have children. We can’t miss this opportunity”
~Doctor Severino Antinori
Doctor Severino Antinori
An Italian gynecologist who runs a fertility clinic in Rome has announced
plans to clone the first human being.
Cloner and Baby Maker
Italian embryologist Dr Severino Antinori is at the centrer of the
heated debate on human cloning.
Three years ago, Dr Antinori announced plans to use cloning
technology to help infertile couples have children. The
technology had been pioneered by British scientists to
produce Dolly the sheep, the world’s first vertebrate clone
made from an adult mammalian cell.
Clone is Coming
Earlier in 2005, Dr Antinori predicted that he would complete the first
human cloning operation within 18 months.
The 55-year-old Dr Antinori was previously best known for his work in
in vitro fertilization and, in particular, for enabling women in their 50s
and 60s to give birth.
63 Year Old Mommy
In 1994 he helped a 63-year-old woman to have a baby by
implanting a donor’s fertilized egg in her uterus, making her the
oldest known women in the world to give birth.
Recently a different 60+ year old woman had her 4th child!
“I will make a human clone!”
Dr Antinori, who runs a fertility clinic in Rome, plans to make his
method of human cloning available to couples who cannot have
children by any other means – for example, when test tube
fertilization is impossible because the man produces no sperm.
Genetic material from the father would be injected into an egg,
which would then be implanted into the woman’s womb to grow.
The resulting child would, in theory, have exactly the same physical
characteristics as the father.
Example: Boba Fett of Star Wars
Dr Antinori told an Italian newspaper recently that more than 1,500
couples had volunteered as candidates for his research program
and that he planned to start producing embryo clones in
He is working in close co-operation with Dr Panos Zavos, an
American fertility expert.
Banned in EU and US
The practice of human cloning is banned in Europe and formal
legislation is now going through Congress in the United States.
A Hidden Lab
Dr Antinori has proposed carrying out the procedure in an
unnamed Mediterranean country or on a boat in international
It’s the media’s fault.
In 1998, Dr Antinori told the BBC it would be immoral to try to clone
humans just for the sake of it, but he justified his work as an attempt
to help infertile couples.
“Generally, people are against human cloning, and I blame the
media for pre-judging it. I want to bring society with me, and
persuade people that it is right in rare cases to help infertile
Doctor defends IVF for Woman,
63 Years Old!
A controversial fertility doctor has defended his decision
to give IVF to a 63-year-old woman who is set to become
Britain’s oldest mother.
Dr Antinori is her doctor; he has said age 62 or 63 was the
upper limit for IVF in healthy women.
Doctor Severino Antinori Said
He said he would only consider couples with at least 20 years’ life
expectancy left for fertility treatment but argued that older people
made better parents.
He said Patricia and her husband John Farrant had come to him at
his clinic in Rome, where he specializes in treating older women,
three years ago and informed him about their wish to have a baby.
Doctor Severino Antinori said:
“When the couple love each other they naturally want to have a
“Age isn’t important in this decision – what’s important is the physical
condition of the mother.”
Researchers in South Korea
Claimed to have cloned embryos in order to attain embryonic
stem cells. Those embryos could have been implanted in a
woman to create the first human clones.
In other words ,the cloning technology already exist,. The
question is whether or not it should ever be used.
Korean scientist, Hwang Woo-suk, the lead researcher in Korea’s
stem cell research has been accused of several ethical violations
and has also been accused of falsifying research.
Want a job, give me your eggs .
Hwang Woo-suk is accused of pressuring several female co
workers into “donating” their ovum for research!
Send in The Clones?
Dr Hwang stepped down as professor at Seoul National University
(SNU) after an investigating panel said a key paper on custom stem
cells was, in large part, fabricated.
Now, the panel has concluded that his landmark claim in 2004 to
have produced the first stem cell line from a cloned human embryo
was also false.
Dr. Hwang Woo-suk
In 2006 Dr. Hwang Woo-suk announced that he is back in business
and has decided he will continue research on stem cells and
Sexual Reproduction is Obsolete
Scientists have now made sexual reproduction obsolete! Now,
strictly speaking, sexual reproduction has been unnecessary for over
20 years- since the advent of successful in vitro fertilization. p. 137
Some Think This Is a Good Thing
In vitro fertilization is a method where sperm and egg are united to
form a single …
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