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Genetic engineering: a moral question

  1. Dec 21, 2003 #1
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/12/031219072314.htm

    The above article basically is talking about a genetic comparison of the genomes of chimpanzees and humans and how both of our species has differentiated from our common ancestor X millions of years ago.

    Since humans and chimpanzees are something like 98.9 percent the same genetically, it brought something to mind.
    Suppose that you took a fertilized chimpanzee egg cell. You then genetically engineered the DNA and RNA in the cell to replace all of the 1.1% chimpanzee genes with the human genes that occupy those positions in our genome.
    You then implanted this modified egg into a human woman to carry to term.

    Since the cell is now genetically human and should grow into a human baby, lets ask a moral question. Is the resulting baby considered fully human, or a genetically engineered chimpanzee?

    To quell any what-if? questions, the baby will look absolutely normal, will have normal human mental faculties and will be able to interbreed with any other human beings with no problems.
    My question is strictly about how we define this being because of its non-standard origins.
     
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  3. Dec 22, 2003 #2

    iansmith

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    Technically, it is not 1.1% genes, it is the base pair. Replacing these gene would be a hell of a job and migth not have any effect.

    The egg migth not be able to develop in a human.

    It probally won't be human and should be consider a genetically engineered chimpanzee.
     
  4. Dec 22, 2003 #3

    Monique

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    What do you get when you cross a horse with a donkey? The same might be the case if we cross a chimpanzee with a human.

    Actually, isn't the ability to reproduce across breeds a measure of specifiation?

    But it is unethical to perform such an experiment, so I doubt if we'll ever find out.
     
  5. Dec 22, 2003 #4

    Monique

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    Btw, horse + donkey = mule (not fertile)
     
  6. Dec 22, 2003 #5
    As I expected, no one could actually just commit to answering the proposed question.

    Again, in the mock situation we are *ASSUMING* that science has the capability of replacing chimp-specific genes with their human equivalents.
    THIS MEANS THE NEW ENGINEERED EMBRYO IS FULLY GENETICALLY HUMAN.
    As I said before, in this example the embryo will be carried to term by the woman, and the creature will grow up like a normal human and will be able to interbreed.
    Its not a question about if it would work or not, the question is about the moral classification of the person. Is he/she considered a human being, or a genetically engineered chimpanzee?
     
  7. Dec 22, 2003 #6

    Monique

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    It is considered a hybrid, as I said: horse + donkey = mule.

    Btw, the engineered organism WON'T be 100% genetically human. The figure that humans and chimp are 98.9% (something like that) the same, doesn't mean that the chimp has 1.1% extra genes which make it chimp.

    The figure is based on the identity of the DNA code, for instance:

    ACGGT chimp
    ACGGA human

    That means the identity is 80%, since that is the number of equal bases. That doesn't say anything about the genes. The chimp genes are most likely mutated and have different regulatory sequences, the genes HAVE the same evolutionary origin but have diverged since then.

    None can predict what will happen when such an experiment would be tried. So: missing genes have to be put in, extra genes have to be taken out and then there is still a large proportion of mutated genes and sequences.
     
  8. Dec 22, 2003 #7
    I think that througout history it has been the case that anything that sparks human curiosity will be explored to the fullest. I really believe that there is no way to circumvent this. In most cases this is a great blessing, but in others it is unfortunate.
     
  9. Dec 22, 2003 #8

    Monique

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    I am wondering about something.. I seem to recall that Hitler used to do experiments on genetics.. did he ever attempt to cross a human with another species?

    Some of the experiments he did, might be in here:
    http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/328/19/1429

    Well, since Hitler was so much against inter-breeding, I guess he didn't do the experiments..
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2003
  10. Dec 22, 2003 #9
    I. I agree if you cross breed a horse and a donkey, it might be the same case as a chimpanzee and a human.
    II. The ability to reproduce is specification, yes.

    I like how you said we'll I am going to take that as 'us' as of our generation won't find out? Otherwise, I would disagree and say that someday we will find out. It is a process that isn't ready to undergo.
     
  11. Dec 26, 2003 #10
    The ability to reproduce across breeds and have offspring which are fertile and can breed is a mesure of specification. Like you said, horses and donkeys can breed, but they're of different species.

    I'm sure anyone who really wanted to could get a chimpanzee and artificially (or natrually, there are some crazy people out there) enseminate it and see what happened, people seem to have no problem locating chimanzees in the wild while shooting documentries.
     
  12. Dec 27, 2003 #11

    Monique

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    Well, that is how they say the first HIV infection took place.. so who knows how many hybrids have been born in the past centuries..

    A thought just came up, a pregnant chimp will probably actually never deliver a hybrid, since the size of the skull will be too large..
     
  13. Dec 27, 2003 #12
    I am a newbie of biology, I read the whole thread and all of you geneticists said it was impossible but why is it genetically impossible ?? Tell me please...I would like to know...

    Thanks a lot

    Regards,
    Eluta
     
  14. Dec 27, 2003 #13

    Monique

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    Hi Eluta! Well, Geuis was suggesting that
    If things were that simple, we could just create an artificial chromosome that carries all the human genes that the chimps is missing, put those into a single cell embryo and let it develop.

    But as was said before, it is not 1.1% of the genes that are different, rather it is a measure of the amount of sequence that is the same between humans and chimps.
     
  15. Dec 27, 2003 #14
    Thanks Monique a lot,

    Regards,
    Eluta
     
  16. Dec 27, 2003 #15
    If A human and chimp could actually breed, you'd be right about the human skull being too big for the chimps hips, but I highly doubt that humans and chimps would be able to breed at all. Any case of inter-species breeding I've ever heard of has always been within the same genus, and often things within the same genus can't even breed.
     
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