DNA: Promise and Peril

DNA: Promise and Peril

DNA: Promise and Peril

DNA: Promise and Peril

Synopsis

The genetic revolution has provided incredibly valuable information about our DNA, information that can be used to benefit and inform--but also to judge, discriminate, and abuse. An essential reference for living in today's world, this book gives the background information critical to understanding how genetics is now affecting our everyday lives. Written in clear, lively language, it gives a comprehensive view of exciting recent discoveries and explores the ethical, legal, and social issues that have arisen with each new development.

Excerpt

Twenty years ago, when the proposed project to sequence the entire human genome was under consideration, both the promise and to some extent the peril were subjects of active discussion. The promise was seen to lie in the potential for deducing the way the human organism is formed and works. From that could come understanding of what goes wrong, leading to birth defects as well as ailments of later life. In turn, that understanding could lead to precise diagnoses, including prenatal diagnosis, prediction of late-onset disorders, and design of preventive measures, specific treatments, and even gene therapy. The promise captured the imagination of both the scientific and the lay community, leading to the public funding of the Human Genome Project here and abroad, with formal initiation of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) project on October 1, 1990.

The peril was discussed at greater length after the establishment of the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) Research Program as part of the NIH project. The Human Genome Project’s first director, James Watson, determined that 3 percent of his budget (and more if necessary) should be devoted to the ELSI Research Program. Thus, beginning in 1990, research grant applications were submitted to the NIH not only by scientists for conduct of the technical aspects of the project but also by sociologists, legal scholars, science historians, philosophers, theologians, genetic counselors, and others for support of ELSI studies and conferences.

We are now in the postgenomic era. The Human Genome Project was . . .

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