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Gene Modification

             These technological advances have caused concern that the human genome could be manipulated. Some people look forward to the time when genetic diseases might be treated by gene therapy, and by "fixing" the gene in germ cells, the deleterious gene could be eliminated from the subsequent generations, as well. Other people (and in some cases, the same people) worry that this ability to manipulate germline genes will result in misguided attempts to enhance human physical or mental abilities. .
             There is relatively little concern about genetic therapy where applied to somatic cells. In such cases, a stem cell (such as a blood stem cell) is cultured, given the new gene, and reinserted back into the body. This is akin to standard medical treatment wherein the individual is treated. Germline gene therapy would seek to eliminate the "bad" genes from the population. .
             I have summarized two papers for their perspectives on this problem, and I recommend your reading the originals. However, their points may provide discussions to consolidate your own views. The arguement pro germline gene modification The argument for germline gene modification comes from .
             Nelson A. Wivel and LeRoy Walters, 1993. Germ-Line Gene Modification and Disease Prevention: Some Medical and Ethical Perspectives. Science 262: 533-538. .
             Dr. Wivel is director of the Office of Recombinant DNA Activities, National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Walters is professor of philosophy and Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. Professor of Christian Ethics, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University. (However, no official support or endorsement by NIH or Georgetown University is should be inferred). They argue that certain monogenic deficiency diseases could and should be correctable by germ-line intervention, and they distinguish four categories of genetic procedures according to their goals and target cells. .
             Type 1 genetic intervention is somatic cell gene therapy as applied to the treatment or prevention of disease.

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