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The Morals Of Silencing Chromosomes Essay

1867 words - 8 pages

Chromosome silencing has led to a breakthrough in the world of Down syndrome, though it has proven to have multiple moral viewpoints that have come to be associated with it.
Down syndrome is one of the most frequently occurring genetic disorders in the human population. Statistically, the chance of delivering a child with Down syndrome rises as the mother grows older. “Researchers now realize that older mothers have more babies with DS because the frequency of meiotic nondisjunction increases in women with age” (O’Conner, 2008). In normal humans, each cell contains 46 chromosomes, 23 from either parent. A karyotype is a mapping of the 23 chromosome pairs. The photo to the left shows a karyotype for a normal male. Each pair contains only two chromosomes for this normal karyotype. 22 of these pairs are autosomes. The last two chromosomes determine whether the person is a female or male. Females have two X-chromosomes. Rather than having two X’s, males have one X-chromosome and then one Y. The picture to the right also shows a karyotype, but this male has Down syndrome. The only difference between these two karyotypes is that the pair for chromosome #21 has one extra chromosome. This is an example of one the most common types of Down syndrome, trisomy 21, and occurs when the person has three copies of chromosome number 21 (Down Syndrome, 2000). Cells have two ways of dividing. The first is called mitosis, which occurs all the time in our bodies. The second, meiosis, is the process of the production for gametes, or sex cells. Down syndrome occurs because a mutation transpired during the meiosis for the creation of the affected individual. During a phase of meiosis called anaphase is when nondisjunction would occur. Anaphase is the time during which the chromosomes are supposed to separate so that each of the resulting daughter cells has a quarter of the chromosomes. For someone to be affected by Down syndrome, during anaphase of meiosis one of the chromosomes would not split completely, so that outcome would be an egg or sperm with two chromosomes. If that egg or sperm became fertilized, then the resulting child would be affected with the disabilities associated with Down syndrome (Children’s Hospital, n.d.). “This event occurs during cell division and is referred to as nondisjunction, or the failure of all chromosomes to separately properly resulting in retention of one of the chromosomes in one of the two new daughter cells. This event is also called trisomy 21 and accounts for about 95 percent of all Down syndrome patients” (Down syndrome, 2008). Although Down syndrome occurs in about 1 out of every 800 to 1000 births (Down syndrome, 2000), there is still a chance that in the future, the symptoms could be silenced.
A woman named Jeanne Lawrence made a great breakthrough in the research of Down syndrome when she discovered a way to silence the third chromosome. “Working on stem cells derived from a patient with Down's syndrome, scientists have...

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