• Question: Do you think humans will ever be genetically modified?

    Asked by starter656 to Cathal, Ciara, Emma, Michael, Sive on 18 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Emma Cahill

      Emma Cahill answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      Hi Starter656,
      In my opinion yes. We have the technology that may someday lead to genetic control of humans, but I hope and believe that this will only be used for genetic disease therapy. In fact, we already do this. In our lab we have a mouse with a disease like certain human diseases and we can treat them by introducing new streches of DNA that replace or correct the malfunctioning gene, this si called gene therapy. Gene therapy has started to be performed in humans but it is early days still and very expensive, but it offers new hope for some diseases that were uncurable before.

    • Photo: Sive Finlay

      Sive Finlay answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      I agree with Emma that I hope we will be able to genetically modify humans for genetic disease therapy. However, I also think that other forms of genetic modification or selection might become more common. There’s been a lot of hype in various media about a future where people produce “designer babies” that have specific genetic combinations to make them predisposed to have super model looks, athletic physiques and Einstein brains. I hope that this will never become a reality because I think it’s dangerous to try to design the perfect human. However, other types of genetic selection which reduce the risk of babies being born with debilitating genetic disorders might become more common in the future.
      I don’t think we’ll ever be genetically modified in the sprouting wings on your back mutant sense of the phrase though!

    • Photo: Michael Nolan

      Michael Nolan answered on 19 Nov 2013:

      As a non-bio person this will definitely happen, like it or not, whether it is ethical or not. We will get to a point where an egg or sperm will be screened and then anything undesirable will be removed and replaced. Even if this is frowned upon or banned, it will still take place.
      People always want to improve themselves and many want to produce “perfect” offspring and so genetic modifications will be undertaken. Maybe at a high price, but yes.

      Whether we get to a Brave New World scenario with Alpha Pluses and Epsilon Minuses is a different story, but it is not a giant leap to head down that path.

      This will need to be done very carefully and with much care, which given our track record as a species, is not very likely.