genetic enhancement

genetic enhancement

The use of genetics to improve selected characteristics or traits of an organism. It is a practice common in agriculture, e.g., in the engineering of supersweet corn or pesticide-resistant soybeans and is both welcomed and feared in human affairs.

In general human enhancements differ from genetic therapies in that they concern the alteration of inherited traits that do not cause disease.

Nongenetic enhancements are common in contemporary medical practice: many middle-aged people undergo surgery to reduce facial wrinkles or replace lost hair; men with erectile dysfunction use drugs to facilitate sexual intercourse; and some parents obtain human growth hormone to increase their children's height.

Ethicists and the general public hold varying opinions on whether it is advisable or desirable to use genetic technology to enhance human qualities, e.g., the selection of the sex of their offspring, or the enhancement of their children's musculature, intelligence, or behavior. Some genetic enhancements may have dual functions: genetic alterations that treat muscular dystrophies might also be used to enhance the athletic abilities of healthy individuals. These intersections between health and cosmetics provoke the thorniest ethical questions: Should humans try to optimize selected characteristics of their species through genetics? Who will pay for such enhancements? Will they be available only to those with the wealth to purchase them? Will they be restricted in some nations because of religious or social concerns and available in others where these considerations are not shared? These and other problems remain to be addressed by ethicists, scientists, families, and society at large.

References in periodicals archive ?
This anniversary will celebrate the collection's immense value to the world including conservation, providing plant material for genetic enhancement studies as well as providing propagation material for the breeding programs and the establishment of commercial plantations in different countries.
In addition to providing an insider's account of what Al Jonsen has called "the birth of bioethics," the book ranges over topics such as the goals of medicine, genetic enhancement, euthanasia, and health care economics, to mention just a few.
Among the topics are the responsible self, enhancement and evolution, an ethical assessment of human genetic enhancement, technology as a new theology from "New Atheism" to technotheism, evolutionary theory applied to institutions with an case study of the impact of Europeanization on higher education policies, and DNA and the evolution of motifs in Beethoven's greatest piano work "The Hammerklavier Sonata.
Recently American swimming coach John Leonard said he could imagine genetic enhancement technology soon being used by athletes to improve performance, transferring favourable genes into their cells.
The next logical step might be genetic enhancement, meaning that Huxley's Brave New World is getting closer to science than fiction.
In this issue, Robert Sparrow develops the troubling implications of the views of two leading theorists whose work favoring human genetic enhancement is influenced by Parfit.
Coverage includes how and why athletes use drugs; the athlete's perspective on drug use; the role that athletes can play in doping control; the evolution of powerlifting and its relationship with drugs; the role of surrounding professionals--scientists, trainers, coaches--and other nonathletes in athletes' drug use; the ethics of human subjects in drug research; sociocultural, sport-specific social, and economic influences on athletes' drug use; arguments against efforts to control drug use in sports; competitive fairness in sports; the underlying ethic of sport; genetic enhancement issues; genetic doping; and biomedical endurance-enhancing strategies.
On the other hand, if open source biology were applied to genetics ("open source genetics"), the results for human genetic enhancement could be equally significant, though quite distinct from the patent system.
In The Case against Perfection, an expansion of an essay by the same title published in The Atlantic in 2004 (1), Harvard political philosopher/ethicist Michael Sandel argues against attempts to "perfect" humanity through genetic enhancement, while supporting the future use of gene therapy and embryonic stem cell technology to relieve human suffering.
Others are more specific, shedding new light on particular issues of the day, such as the sale of body organs, and the ethics of genetic enhancement in sport.