Friday, December 12, 2014

We know that George Bush claimed he spoke to God and he answered. We also know that George did not allow any genetic experiments during his administration halting important possible discoveries in treating humans with reoccurring health problems. When Obama took office one of the first things he did was to allow genetic research to start up again.  Now there are few fields of medicine that are having a bigger impact on how we treat diseases than Genetics. The science of genetics have gotten so sophisticated that it can not only be used to treat serious illnesses but prevent thousands of them before pregnancy even begins. Diseases that have stopped families for generations like breast cancer being literally gone forever. Scientists can do that now by creating and testing embryos  in a lab then implanting into a mother’s womb only the ones that appear to be healthy.
This whole concept is loaded with controversy but those who are worried about passing on defective  and potentially dangerous genes see how this is an opportunity to breed out disease. The rapidly growing field is known as Reproductive Genetics. The technique is known as Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis or PGD. It is an embryo screening procedure that can identify deadly gene mutations and alter a child’s genetic destiny.   This procedure has been around for two decades used in detecting one disease, Cystic Fibrosis. Now with mapping the human genes,   it can be used to root out virtually any disease caused by a single defective gene. We are talking about horrors like Tay-sacks, Muscular Dystrophy, Sickle Cell Anemia, Hemophilia, Huntinton’s  Disease and even Alzheimer’s if it is a particular gene that causes a onset. Colon Cancer if they know which gene is that gene. Breast Cancer now done regularly.

There are only a hand full of labs in this country that provides this type of testing which is why three thousand couples turn to this type of testing each year. Adults who have had aggressive forms of cancer can now take steps to produce their next generation of family cancer free. You can tell a lot from one cell and that one cell has fertility clinics all over the country sending cell samples of people to Genesis Genetics just outside Detroit where a team of scientists will take over and break open the cell and reveal the genetic information, the DNA. They look to make sure the genes are strung in the right order to find defects in the genetic code. If mutations are found, new technology can isolate the problem areas. Here is where religious guilt kicks in. Is it ethical to destroy embryos that have faulty genes? It is still a difficult decision for many parents.

Are we playing God? In nature we naturally produce about half disease free children and the other half with genes carrying one or more defect or disease.  What gives them courage to destroy an embryo is the comfort to know that for instance that breast cancer will forever stop in that family after her generation. It is a disease free service for future generations.  The entire process costs about $16,000 dollars. It is a small price to pay for children’s health. Every human is a carrier for a disease but what matters is who we partner with to make the disease come forward. There is a company called Genepeeks that with just a saliva sample of both people in a couple that can create virtual possibilities of babies they can produce thereby letting the couple know in advance what type of child they could produce. The service is available for $2,000 for clients of even sperm banks or any source

The goal is to have available this type of testing to all people who wish to have a baby. Someday people will not use sex to reproduce. It is too risky and dangerous. The debate goes further that some people will abuse this technology to try to create the perfect race whatever the definition of that is. Right now this is good in that it will be preventing future generations from suffering with the common diseases that is plaguing our generation. It is good to not have Polio or Lepers around anymore. Genepeeks has the patent that includes the technology to determine other traits like eye color, hair color, and social intelligence. There are no real laws or rules in this country limiting what this type of technology can be used to look for.   


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