It is said that only God should have the ability to create life, but then in this rapidly developing era, the big question remains. We cannot deny that biotech has somewhat played its card against nature. It might be a good thing as God, creator, or whatever you want to call the agencies that have made us, may get it wrong, and it is up to us to correct those mistakes. Here is the list of 10 biotechnology advancement which made us think that we are going against nature:
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It has been almost 40 years since the first ‘test-tube baby’ news had taken the world by storm. How close are we to edit out all of our genetic imperfections, and should we even try to do so? Imagine you are at a fertility clinic where you and your partner are given a folder. Inside that folder is a baby menu. Yes! You read that right, a menu from where you can select the height, skin color, or even IQ of the baby. If there is any kind of future for “designer babies”, it might look something like this. The simplest way to “design” a baby is not to construct its genome by picking and mixing gene editing but by producing a huge number of embryos and reading their genomes to find the one that most closely matches your desires. If this is not going against the law of nature, then what is?
2. Three Parent babies
The world welcomed its first three-parent baby in 2016. Surely this baby may have opened the door to a new world of reproductive medicine, but it is still an arguable topic. Three parent baby technique allows parents with rare genetic disorders to have healthy babies. When an embryo forms, it inherits half its genome from its mother and another half from its father. But all of the mitochondria are formed in the mother’s egg. If a mutation has occurred in those mitochondria, then all of the offspring’s mitochondria will be mutated. This process involves a father, mother, and a small amount of mitochondrial DNA from a donor female. The mother’s egg and a donor egg are fertilized at the same time. The pronuclei are removed from the donor egg and discarded. Then the pronuclei are sucked out of the mother’s egg and transferred into the empty donor egg.
3. Genetically Modified Food
People in favor of GM food say that it is the only way to feed a warming, increasingly populous world. Usage of GM Crops has increased farmer safety by allowing them to use less pesticide and has helped to produce higher yield crops that can withstand high and low temperatures and tolerate insects, disease, and herbicides. But there is a lot of hesitancy with the GM crops. The side effects are still unknown. They are publicly criticized as companies fail to label their food as GM. Since Gm food deals with micro-organisms, there is a risk of mutation. There are lots of controversies regarding GM food. Who knows what the future of Gm food holds, but we cannot deny the fact that genetic modification of food is going against nature.
4. Genetically Modified Animals
Genetic Modification of animals might revolutionize the whole area of agriculture and health, according to proponents. But are we ready for a GM salmon or even GM mosquitoes?
It is very common to find animals that are genetically modified these days. The animals have their DNA combined with that of other animals or altered to create a new type of animal today. Animals like Glow in dark Cats and Spider goat were genetically engineered way back. But now researchers are modifying the animals in such a way that it might reap the unlimited benefit to mankind. They are trying to engineer marine animals with genes that are resistant to some of the diseases that plague farmed seafood and also mosquitoes that fight against malaria. Certain modifications from the past have raised ethical questions and is a topic of debate among critics. Is mankind doing this sort of modification to animals a good thing or bad? The answer is still unclear.
5. Artificial skin
Who wouldn’t wish to erase those crow’s feet or shrink those eye bags? In the future, rather than getting injections or going under the knife, one may be able to solve those cosmetic problems by painting on a second skin. This type of skin is known as artificial skin. Skin is our largest organ, our first line of defense against infections, and our temperature regulator. Since it does so many vital jobs, it is difficult to recreate in the lab. Artificial skin grafting has become a boon for burn victims, and people will skin disorders.
Different companies are using bioprinters loaded with biomaterials like bacteria or undifferentiated cell types for developing artificial skin. It helps in the construction of tissues layer by layer, and each layer contains the relevant cell types and has dimensions that are approximate to those of the patients’ tissue. These tissues can be applicable for providing multiple functions. The grafted, artificial skin is capable of growing hair, excreting oils, and working with nerve and muscle cells.
6. Artificial organs
When researchers in Vanderbilt University’s mechanical engineering department needed to bio print artificial capillaries to supply organs with blood, they used a $40 cotton candy machine from Target. Because the cotton candy maker was able to generate threads approximately one-tenth of the diameter of a human hair, the Vanderbilt researchers could use it to make the artificial blood vessels as well. It was an ingenious solution: using a snack machine to save lives. There are many more stories where artificial organs have become the ultimate savior of mankind.
Scientists have created artificial hearts, livers, lungs, urethra, windpipes, and more in labs. Although science must overcome many obstacles before these artificial organs enter everyday hospitals, amazing medical accomplishments have occurred. But creating what we naturally have in a laboratory environment is a challenging process.
7. Modifying the sex of a baby
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis(PGD) is a part of designing a baby where you can choose which gender you prefer your baby to be. This is the only method where embryos are tested for gender before they are implanted in the womb. The tested embryos are created for IVF. The eggs are harvested from the mother (or donor), and the sperm sample is taken from the father (or donor), and the embryos are created in the lab for later implantation. These embryos are subject to a biopsy procedure on the third day of growth that allows a single cell to be analyzed for male or female chromosomes.
While this is the most accurate technique, it is by far the most costly. It is commonly used for couples with a family history of a genetic disorder, and older mothers are more likely to have a baby with genetic birth defects. Even though it is strictly prohibited for couples to use just for the sake of changing the sex of the baby, it is still a complicated topic.
8. Rewiring DNA in Synthetic biology
Synthetic Biology is a discipline that brings together the methodologies of computer science, engineering, and biology. It includes reworking DNA, sometimes even writing it from scratch and other molecular processes to create new applications.
Synthetic biologists aren’t just copying and pasting existing DNA from one place to another. They are looking to figure out how specific sequences work and then putting them together into new configurations. The idea is that you can figure out what given segments of DNA do and then patch them together, much as you would with lines of computer code, effectively programming cells to behave in new ways. This is an emerging topic that has created a buzz in the global market.
Want to know more? Check out Is synthetic Biology taking over the world
9. Embryonic stem cell research
A stem cell is a basic form of life. ESCs are primarily made from cells that are found in a human blastula, one of the earliest stages of human life. A fertilized egg grows into a blastula can only survive for a short time before it must be implanted in a womb. These blastulas are typically made artificially in a laboratory or fertility clinic.
Researchers are interested in stem cells for various reasons. Even though stem cells do not serve any one function, many have the capacity to serve any function after they are specialized. Every cell in the body is derived from the first few stem cells formed in the early stages of embryological development. Therefore, stem cells extracted from embryos can be induced to become any desired cell type. This property makes stem cells powerful enough to regenerate damaged tissue under the right conditions. The stem cell research has been highly opposed despite its benefits.
Believe it or not, cloning is relatively old science: the earliest known reproductive cloning was performed on tadpoles in 1952. Since then, some 20 species, including cats, dogs, monkeys, rats, pigs, camels, and fish, have been cloned with varying levels of success. On average, only about 10% of clones lead to healthy living offspring; the rest fail or die for one reason or another. Clones seem to have a higher risk of genetic problems, shorter lifespan, and other health issues.
There have been clones of the mouse which was dead and frozen for 16 years. Scientists are trying to clone the extinct species like saber tooth tiger and woolly mammoth. But ethical watchdogs believe that cloning will bring the world closer to the day when people try to clone long-dead relatives stored in cryopreservation clinics. It could even lead to a macabre new industry – in which people leave behind ‘relics’ of their bodies in freezers in the hope that they could one day be cloned. It is an arguable topic and is strictly against the natural process.