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Genomes and Superhumans

HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer

Friday, February 06, 2015



Genomes and Superhumans
DNA

Judging from advancements and projected outcomes in genetic science, I’ll be “soylent green” by 2025. The Human Genome Project, for example, an international research program dedicated to mapping and understanding all the genes of human beings, could lead to the creation of super-humans, in which case I’m as expendable as a Q-Tip.

On that cheery note, let’s start at the beginning. A “genome” is an organism’s comprehensive set of DNA, including all its genes. Every genome has all the information required to create and sustain that organism. In humans, a copy of the genome, which is 3+ billion DNA base pairs, is contained in every cell having a nucleus.

Scientists are so intent on mapping human genomes that they have “sequenced” - determined the order of all the bases in a genome’s DNA - in 225,000 genomes thus far and are picking up such speed that they expect to sequence approximately 5 million human genomes by 2020. That’s a whole lotta data.

What does science plan to do with this information? Scientists are using artificial intelligence and computation with machines capable of ingesting and analyzing huge amounts of data and making connections beyond human capabilities for analyzing data. In other words, those machines are going to generate knowledge from all that raw data.

What does science plan to do with that generated knowledge? They plan to integrate information worldwide in order to discover, for instance, which genes cause which biological traits.

Recognition allows selection of some traits and avoidance of other traits. For example, British researchers used real-time genome sequencing to pinpoint and eliminate a drug-resistant pathogen outbreak at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Scientists also anticipate that this advanced genetic knowledge will be used for highly refined pre-implantation embryo selection in in-vitro fertilization. Embryo selection, which is already widely practiced, would conceivably be foolproof if an embryologist knows the genome of each analyzed embryo.

Changing the genome appears more remarkable (and scarier). In the future, pinpointing the genetic source of Huntington’s Disease, for instance, will be a huge step toward eliminating the disease through genetic changes. At least theoretically, that can be accomplished with any disease once scientists have mapped our genomes, analyzed the data to generate knowledge and integrated it worldwide. On the somewhat scarier side, as one scientist said, “If you can define [a super-human], we can create one.”

Who will define the super-human and what will be the consequences of fashioning him/her? At first blush, it would seem that a super-human would not have manic-depressive disorder, for example. However, by eliminating bipolar disorder, will we also eliminate future Lord Byrons, Ernest Hemingways, Vivien Leighs and Vincent Van Goghs? I don’t wanna. That’s probably why you’ll eventually find me in the soylent green aisle of the local supermarket.

By Kathy Catanzarite


Source: Kathy Catanzarite - Handelonthelaw.com Staff Writer

Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.





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