The two prominent scientist of the world, American Craig Venter and French Daniel Cohen pioneered the surveying of human genome and determining DNA fragments and their functions. Dr. Venter covered distance in surveying human genome as a result of the studies he carried out in American National Health Center. And Dr. Cohen is the leading scientist of Genset Company the headquarters of which is located in Paris and which focuses on the genetic roots of Alzheimer s disease and prostate cancer.
In their assessments published in the copy of NPQ Turkey Magazine numbered 2004/4, both of the scientist assert that if the 20th century is the century of physics, the 21st century will be the century of biology, which I agree. Because whereas blazing up, electrics and nuclear power express the scientific developments of the previous century, new biology which derived from genome researches and will allow the whole genetic designation of the species including the human species will leave its mark on the century we live in.
In Venters and Cohens opinion, beginning to use genome information will lead to the reconstruction of medicine and drug industry in the forthcoming years. As the process of disclosing the genetic codes of human advances, we will begin to find correlations between minor differences in the spelling of the genes. When we have found the exact spelling error, we will cure the disease by intervening with a drug or a virus produced just for this purpose or by "vaccinating" the right spelling to the aimed gene. Accordingly, the prediction and prevention of the disease will be the result of the genome researches of in medicine which will be realized the fastest.
Furthermore, the genomes of 50-100 microorganisms including the major killers responsible for an aggregate of 20 million people each year in the first decades of the century we live in, such as cholera, tuberculosis and malaria, will be decoded and each decoded genome presents a six times more target potential for biotechnology and drug firms to develop new antibiotics. The impact of these data on health industry must not be undermined. Only diseases are responsible for the 90% of the ailments and deaths of humans. If these diseases can be predicted and prevented or cures by newly designed antibiotics, the rapidly rising hospital costs will fall significantly. Instead, new drug firms to develop drugs which can aim the gene causing the disease will dominate drug industry.
Venter and Cohen emphasize that as usual, positive developments in science may cause negative results. Genetics is progressing fast, without letting us understand whats right and whats wrong and without giving us opportunity to ask questions. In our century, 6 billion people will live in the world. If we are to protect humans and children by means of genome science, how will the world bear this development? One of the answer genome science will give to this question can be plant engineering, the gene vaccinating method to increase product yield.
The genetic code surveying of a plant will have been completed in the following years. Already genes providing resistance against certain harmful pests have been vaccinated into the seed genome; this will result in the increase of product yield in a proportion of 20%. Such a development is vital for countries having a huge population, yet the each square meter of the arable lands of which are already being used, such as China. A very important fact that should not be forgotten is that if food production stops today, we have food reserves to feed planet only for six weeks.
The history of genetics, from the first decades of the 20th century to Nazis and the frenzy of "ethnical cleaning" in the recent period, makes the warning that humanity is not yet ready for the genetic information he is about to obtain. It can be considered that the "great race" will meddle with the endeavor of "ethnical cleaning" and this is a probability which must be born in mind. On the other hand, the danger which is closer is genetic differentiation. We are beginning to identify spelling mistakes causing intestine and breast cancer; a certain time will pass, if not decades, between the discovery of this and curing the target gene.
Meanwhile, the people diagnosed with these cases can incur differentiation by insurance companies not willing to undertake their diseases or employers refusing to employ them. The law of human rights and civil rights should be updated to include this new diseased class. As a result of the developments in genome technology, is it possible to produce a new human species? When we have learned the whole structure of genome surveying, we can design such a human theoretically.
If sufficient money and means can be provided for human and bird researches, nobody doubt that we can attach the wings of a bird to a human being. The main principle the responsible scientists should pay attention to must be not to do anything which he cannot undo. Within the light of all the facts stated above, human, when he has produced his gene designation to redesign his species, will have reached the final limit of his destiny.
The main problem of the century we live in will not be the limits of the national state but the limits of the individual, as Brezinski, the former National Security Counselor of USA, stated. Within this context, what is unique to the human being? When science intervenes in order to change a genome whose development took thousands of years where will the limit between the culture and nature stand? Where will genetic intervention, if there will be any, be limited? The answers to be given to these ethical questions new biology addresses us will mark the century we live in. Just so we become aware of the major dangers the genome technology will create, as well as the major opportunities it will present to us.
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