Due to advancements in science and technology we have entered a time period which has been coined “The Genomic Era”. Within our life times, scientists and researchers have been able to isolate every gene in the human genome as well as the genomes of other various species. What does that mean? Well, the Human Genome Project has many goals: the advancement of science, the advancement of medicine, and the increase of profit, just to list a few. The hope is for answers to questions that every one is waiting for. Such as, “Is there a cure for cancer?”. Or how about, “Am I that different from the other species of organisms that roam the earth?”. Have you ever asked yourself a similar question? The theory behind the HGP is that the answer lies in the genes. So how does it work? Basically, scientists have been able to isolate every gene, or the approximately 70,000 in human DNA, more specifically every building block of every gene, and lay it out on a huge map. This map allows us to study the importance of every piece of the puzzle on the health of the entire organism.
IN MY OPINION, mankind is still on a search that began thousands of years ago… We have all heard the stories of a fountain that brings youth. If you could somehow find it and drink from it, then you will live forever. Now this may seem like a far stretch, but, in my opinion, genomics is hoping to be this fountain. As we discuss what is possible with genomic research, you may begin to think as I do.
Though living forever is not within our grasp, genomics has led to some fascinating new areas of science and society. For example, forensics research. Every crime scene is searched for some remainder of the criminal. Whether it be a fiber of clothing, a blood splatter, or a few flakes of skin under the finger nails of the victim, all are possible leads. From this remainder, scientists in a lab can sequence, or map characteristics of the DNA, and compare the criminals DNA with a bank of DNA from other convicts. This is a widely used procedure, though it takes much more time than we see on prime time TV.
Have you ever wondered who your baby daddy really is? Paternal testing is another method of identification very similar to forensic analysis!
Another area of genomic research deals with crops and designing crops that withstand conditions that natural, or wild type, crops could not. What if you could design corn to withstand attacks from insects or withstand certain chemicals? Could you make it grow faster or yield a better tasting crop? These are legitimate questions that have answers ready to be discovered.
Could studying the DNA of your parents and their parents lead to preventative measures for you or your kids? Now, more than ever it is important to have a grasp on where you came from in order to see where you are going.
What about genetic defects like Down’s Syndrome? This mutation is the result of an extra chromosome 21. Can it be prevented? Can it be detected soon enough and fixed? Is that kind of thinking MORALLY okay? Maybe now we begin to see some of the implications of this type of research!
What if we could genetically engineer people? In other words, what if we could modify them before they’re born? What if we could choose their race, skin tone, temperament, or body type? What if we could engineer a perfectly healthy human being? It may sound like science fiction but, look it up for yourself, these are serious questions being asked by researchers and scientists in our day.
They are already doing this kind of research on animals in our home state. Missouri University has a branch completely devoted to cloning and altering swine. They can engineer them to produce healthy fat or even glow in the dark!
What if your kidney fails and there is no immediate donor? Nowadays you would probably suffer and eventually die. Is it possible to engineer a kidney specifically for you, that your body would not reject, and grow it in a lab along side you from birth? Or could your medicine be formulated in such a way that it is exactly what your body needs? The answers to these questions are not so far away thanks to stem cell research and modern medicine.
The genomics era is NOW. We have to decide what we are going to do about it. Some of you may go on to college, earn a researchers degree, and actually find answers to some of the questions I have posed. Others of you may choose a different path for your life. The important thing is that we all recognize what is happening and we get involved however we can by voting, supporting financially, or just discussing these important matters.
The Genomic Era
THE GENOMIC ERA <ul><li>The answer lies in the genes </li></ul>