Two interesting news stories on genetics: One, about creating artificial life and the other is a Nobel awarded, groundbreaking work, titled gene targeting. It’s almost certain that genetics will be the most important scientific discipline in upcoming decades, with the new possibilities and exciting new horizons appear for the humanity. Of course, bringing new “problems” and hot debates too.
Craig Venter, a U.S. scientist and researcher, claims he created an artificial chromosome in his laboratory and injected this to a living bacterial cell. The Guardian reports:
Controversial celebrity US scientist Craig Venter has announced he is on the verge of creating the first ever artificial life form which he hails as a potential remedy to illness and global warming.
Venter told Britain’s The Guardian newspaper Saturday that he has built a synthetic chromosome using chemicals made in a laboratory, and is set to announce the discovery within weeks, possibly as early as Monday.
Despite Venter’s sensational “media show”, the prospect of engineering artificial life forms is highly controversial and likely to trigger a heated debate over the ethics and potential ramifications of such an advance, think some. We’ll see what new discussions will begin in upcoming weeks. You know, scientists have an instinctive reflex to reject all the new and groundbreaking theories that come from their colleagues.
The other news story on genetics was about two U.S. scientists and their collaborator from the U.K., who were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine, with their “gene targeting” technology:
Mario Capecchi, Oliver Smithies and Briton Martin Evans developed a technique known as gene targeting. It enabled them to replicate human diseases in mice by introducing genetic changes into the animal’s stem cells. The Nobel Committee said this had led to many new insights into conditions such as cancer and heart disease. For instance, science has gained a greater understanding of how disease can strike otherwise healthy people. The technique has also helped to shed new light on the ageing process, and on how the embryo develops in the womb. It can be used to study almost every aspect of mammalian physiology.
All these intriguing new researches and achievements are very likely to trigger new questions and debates; both “technically” and “socially”. Can we stop aging or even achieve “immortality”? Seems likely. But of course, the real question should be “Who’s gonna be benefited from all these new technologies in genetics?” Everybody, or a bunch of selected elites? If you try to imagine a 6.5 billion population, “not dying” but continuously procreating, you can get the clues of a nightmare.
The Earth can not feed such a “crazy” population; so even if scientists would finally get to the secrets of longevity (if not “immortality”) it could only be granted to the members of a tiny minority, who have the “power” in their hands. In other words, who can “afford” a very expensive genetical engineering operation to live long, long years. Yep, “the elites”; not your average middle class fellow friends or the “masses”.
Maybe our next hot debate will be on longevity and/or immortality; focusing mostly “who’s gonna deserve it” and “who’s gonna have it”. Sounds like a science-fiction story? Come to think of it again: It’s only a matter of years, not decades, before genetic scientists could achieve the “path to a very long (if not eternal) life”. And then, we’ll have a brand new issue: not only philosophical but also a very “political” one.