Breakthroughs in DNA research have led to the development of new technology and medical treatments, in some cases where only limited or no treatment previously existed. A lot of good has come out of this relatively new field of scientific research.
The molecular structure of DNA was discovered in 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick, but it is only during the last 25 years or so that the most amazing break throughs have occurred in DNA technology. In the late 1960’s, early 1970’s the concept of gene therapy was born. In 1980 the first successful transfer of a gene into a mouse was performed. In a nut shell gene therapy is a technique of correcting defective genes which otherwise cause disease/disability.
Since 1980 rapid advancements in this field have been made, with these advancements public opinion is often divided on the ethics, especially as it involves the basic physical and functional units genes which make us what we are, human beings.
Cloning and trangenics are two breakthrough areas which have probably provoked the strongest reactions, emotions and debates. Just what good can we achieve from these two techniques and at what cost?
Cloning may be a means of curing currently incurable disease, enable enhancement of our understanding of genetics, and lead to a solution to the worldwide shortage of organs available for transplantation.
Through transgenic animals it is hoped that a cost effective method of producing desired enzymes and proteins may have been found, which could be used in medical treatments to improve human life. With transgenic crops increased yield and resistance to disease and insects is the aim.
A strategy of caution should be employed when undertaking any scientific research and the aim should always be improvement, be that in comprehension of life and the human body or medical enhancements. Knowledge in the wrong hands always has the possibility of doing harm. Public opinion and the ethical implications of all advancements/breakthroughs in DNA technology have to be taken into account, and appropriate legal regulations need to be in place to prevent harm coming from them.
New treatments for cancer, asthma, immune deficiency, HIV, heart attacks, viral infection, new safer vaccines, gene therapy, diagnosis of hereditary disease and genetic fingerprinting, are just a few of the good things which have come about as a direct result of DNA breakthroughs so far.