Genetic screening is the screening/testing of blood and other tissues to identify genetic disorders. There are around 1000 different types of these tests available for several purposes such as: the diagnosis of an individual with symptoms, determination of a person’s risk of future disease, guidance of medical treatment, research etc
Genetic screening of couples before they decide to have children, especially if there is a family history of genetic disease, is a fantastic way of allowing couples the chance to decide about their suitability as a couple to have a child together naturally.
Prenatal screening is a test performed after a woman is pregnant. It provides information about the unborn baby’s health before he/she is born.
The problem with this type of screening is that if the results do highlight a problem, the prospective parents face the unenviable task of deciding whether to continue or abort the pregnancy.
Genetic engineering is the use of technology to alter the genetic material of living cells, to make them capable of producing new substances or performing new functions.
Broadly speaking genetic engineering can be split into three types:
1) Applied genetics; cloning, transgenics.
2) Chemical engineering; gene mapping, gene interaction, gene coding.
3) Analytical genetic engineering; computer modelling.
Through the use of transgenic technology it is possible that scientists one day may be able to develop cures for currently incurable diseases. If this is achieved and we were (for example) able to cure cystic fibrosis, it does not necessary follow that the cure would reverse the effects of the disease, i.e. if a person was sterile before treatment they probably would still be sterile after treatment.
Genetic engineering in general raises a lot of ethical questions in particular when applied to humans, and even more so when applied in terms of an unborn child.
It would be nice to think that one day we could eradicate genetic disease however
with autosomal recessive diseases such as Sickle cell anaemia, at any one time a portion of the population will be carriers, and the possibility of two carriers having a child together and passing on a clinically significant genetic disease is always there. This and the fact that random genetic mutations do occur from time to time is the reason why genetic disease will always persist.
Currently the exact function of every single gene is not yet known. Financially screening every person alive is impractical and would be an intrusion of a person’s rights.
Genetic engineering in crops for improving crop production, and for developing cures for devastating, debilitating and deadly diseases is a positive thing, but using it to overcome sterility and guarantee a child free of genetic disease in my opinion is taking things a step to far.
Evolution is all about genetic adaptions, survival and regulation and on the whole it works. I do not think humans could do as good a job as nature, never mind better.
Undoubtedly it will not be long before we can screen an unborn baby, produce a genetic blueprint of it and alter it if we believe it to have errors, but for evolution to occur natural genetic selection of existing genes and potentially positive mutations must occur.
Genes are what make us what/who we are. Manipulating the genes of an unborn child to me does not seem right.
Nature is not perfect and humans by no stretch of the imagination could be classed as being perfect. Sometimes just every now and again maybe we should take a step back and let nature take its course.