A Massive Project For The Benefit Of Mankind. A Look At The Human Genome Project

1440 words - 6 pages

Scientists are taking medical technology to new heights as they race to map all of the genes, nearly 100,000, in the 23 chromosomes of the human body. Along the way, they hope to understand the basis of, and maybe even develop methods of treating certain genetic diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Muscular Dystrophy. They plan to do this by identifying the DNA sequence of an abnormal gene in which a disease originates and comparing it with the data of a normal or healthy gene. The entire research project is entitled 'The Human Genome Project.''The Human Genome Project' is a large scale project being conducted by more than 200 laboratories, with even more researchers and labs having joined in. Most of the labs and researchers are located in France and the United States. The project started in 1990 and was slated to take 15 years and cost $3 billion in U.S. money for the entire project coming to roughly $200 million per year. Federal funding for the project is nearly 60% of the annual need. This has created some funding problems for the project. There also have been technological advances and discoveries that have helped to speed up the project. This automation may help to reduce the cost and help the project to meet its objectives ahead of schedule. The project was estimated to have detailed maps of all of the chromosomes and know the location of most of the human Genes by 1996.Researchers have successfully located the gene and DNA sequence for Huntington's Disease on Chromosome 4 and have created a genetic test to determine if a person carries this gene. 'The child of a person with Huntington's has a 50% chance of inheriting the gene, which inevitably leads to the disease.' Once an individual acquires the gene, it is only a matter of time before they acquire the disease. Because the medical costs of treating such persons in terminal illnesses are extremely high, insurance companies who want to stay in business see this genetic test, and others like it, as an opportunity to screen prospective clients for the probability of such diseases. Some people feel that this information gives insurance companies unfair advantage over those covered by medical insurance and point out that release of genetic information to insurance companies puts a severe disadvantage on the person who is screened, as well as violates the patients right to privacy. If this genetic information is not safeguarded as confidential for the patient's and doctor's knowledge alone, then the patient can be labeled as undesirable and the patient may not be able to receive insurance coverage at any price. This also brings up other ethical questions. 'Does genetic testing constitute an invasion of privacy, and would it stigmatize those found to have serious inborn deficiencies? Would prenatal testing lead to more abortions? Should anyone be tested before the age of consent?'Obviously, many genetic advancements are to come of this research. One biotechnology that will benefit from genetic...

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