Friday, July 18, 2008

A difficulty for proponents of genetic enhancement

Is that traits are multi-factorial and genes may have both positive and negative effects depending on the context and environment.

A good example of this is illustrated in this BBC article: Malaria gene 'increases HIV risk'

People of African descent have a variation of the "DARC" gene which may interfere with their ability to fight HIV in its early stages.

The Cell Host and Microbe study says the gene accounts for millions of extra HIV cases in sub-Saharan Africa.

The gene influences the levels of chemicals called chemokines, which play a role in the body's defences against viruses, and a variation is held by approximately 90% of Africans.

The origins of the variation are unclear, but it is thought to have evolved in response to widespread malaria outbreaks by offering protection against that disease.


In other words a trait that is protective in some circumstances is now, in a changed environment, very harmful. The implications of this are twofold, namely that the effects of "enhancement" are potentially harmful to other traits, and more importantly are difficult to predict.

7 comments:

watchdogonscience said...

This scientific information that “genes work in multifactorial dimensions” has been known for some time. Dangerous technologies within the genetic engineering world also have been known. This information, however, will not inhibit the post trans-human and genetics movement which is popular in most all academic institutions.

It is unfortunate, but many in the academic community have become one-sided to bioethical issues. Their one-sidedness is called "advancement." And they will promote it at any cost to our liberties and to public health and safety.

The academic community has become masters of clever public relations tactics and will use them to continue to promote genetic information and genetic enhancements. Passing weak laws like GINA that feign protection but in actuality offer little to no protection to the American citizen is only one example. Scientists having their genomes publically released is another tactic.

Genetic enhancement and genetic information are the bread and butter of a new eugenics movement which has become popular within the academic community. Scientific information such as genes working in both positive and negative aspects and dangerous technologies which are public health and safety threats will be dismissed when it comes to decision making in moving science and genetic technologies forward.

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