Why are they doing this?

Genetic and part genetic diseases affect one in every 20 people by the age of 25 and perhaps as many as two in three people during their lifetime (British Medical Association 1). It is for this reason that the genome project has become a point of interest around the world. Millions of people are suffering from a genetic disease that in the foreseeable future will be totally eradicated.

The technology is astounding in theory but even more amazing in clinical practice. This project is already helping real people increase their comfort of living.

An example of this was presented by the National Institute of Health as early as 1990. A team of four medical researchers - W. French Anderson, Michael Blaese, Ken Culver and Steven Rosenberg - infused genetically engineered white blood cells into the immune system of a four-year-old girl that was crippled by an inherited defect (Wilkie 16). The girls body was unable to synthesize an essential protein called adenosine deaminase. This protein allows the immune system to work properly and without it infections that would cause a sniffle in a healthy individual would kill a sufferer of this disorder. The disease, severe combined immune deficiency (SCID), forced its sufferers to live out their life in a plastic bubble. After this procedure the girl was able to leave her bubble, come in contact with others, play outside and even go to school.

The advantages of the project do not just stop at curing diseases and ending pain. The possibilities are as enormous as the undertaking itself. It is not impossible that in the future a composite sketch of a criminal will be created from a single cell left behind by the perpetrator.

Genetic engineering can also lead to a society that no longer wants what is best for its children, but rather wants the best children they can get. A genetic supermarket, although still science fiction, is not impossible. Parents will be able to choose not only the eye color but the height and IQ.

The human genome project will not only ease the suffering of millions of people, it will also generate billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies. One estimate from the British Center for the Exploitation of Science and Technology states that, "Products generated from the genome project will account for drug sales of $60 billion or more by the year 2010, equal to half of the international pharmaceutical industry's sales in 1992" (Wilkie 5).


Christopher Myles cmyles@ufl.edu