Revised Interdisciplinary Paper

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5 Δεκ 2012 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 11 μήνες)

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Genetic Engineering of Animals

Biomedical
Research


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INTRODUCTION


A marvel of the mode
rn world that continues to grow

in interest as well as dispute is
genetic engineering. Much disagreement has arisen between the ethics and practic
e of
biomedical research in the

genetic engineering of animals. The question of whether the use of
animals in the field of human disease research and application is ethical or not has grown into
an incredibly significant debate between parties such as the American Anti
-
Vivisection Soci
ety
(AAVS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Its application is expanding into a number
of fields including medicine, agri
culture, and biotechnology (Jerusalem Center for Public
Affairs
). However, according to Utilitarianism, I believe this use

of non
-
human subjects in
biomedical research is ethical. That being the case, it should still be monitored and kept to a
limit.


The number and significance of fields in which genetic engineering is expanding into is
increasing with the employment
of a

few techniques. Xenotransplantation incorporates genetic
engineering to produce

or transplant

organs, cells, and tissues capable of harvesting for human
use through transplantation.

This is becoming popular because the demand for human organs
needed for

clinical transplants is outgrowing the supply.

“Pharming”

(combination of the words
“farming” and “pharmaceuticals”)

is another application in which animals are used as
“incubators” for the creation
of human
-
used pharmaceuticals by splicing in new DNA to

an
animal’s already existing DNA. These genetically modified animals

(now considered
“transgenic”)

are then most commonly used for the production of human proteins with
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medicinal purposes. Another use of genetic engineering is agricultural production

a
more
common and visible use of the science.
This idea involves procedures used to increase cattle
growth, produce leaner meat, as well as resist diseases (American Anti
-
Vivisection Society).

Arguments for and against the use of genetic engineering of an
imals have come from a
variety of angles. Organizations like the American Anti
-
Vivisection Society (AAVS) and the
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) join with others to wage a continuing battle against
legal systems and opposing organizations like

the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The
Biotechnology Organization pushes the fact that animal biotechnology will provide significant
benefits to mankind. These benefits are grouped into five categories:


1. Genetically engineered animals will impro
ve human health through production of novel proteins,
drugs, vaccines, and tissues for the treatment and prevention of human disease
.

2. Animals that are genetically engineered will have improved food production traits enabling them to help
meet the global

demand for more efficient, higher quality and lower
-
cost sources of food.

3. Genetically engineered animals will contribute to improving the environment and human health with
the consumption of fewer resources and the production of less waste.

4. Genet
ic Engineering offers tremendous benefits to the animals by enhancing health, well
-
being, and
animal welfare.

5. Finally, genetically engineered animals have produced high
-
value industrial products such as spider silk
used for medical and defense purposes
(
www.bio.org)
.”

Though all of these can be classified under the title of “genetic engineering of animals,” I will be
focusing on a separate and more particular issue

the use of animals in biomedical research,
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where scien
tists use genetically modified animals to study biology and develop models of
diseases applicable to human beings.
I will apply the benefits provided by this practice to
outweigh the potentially negative effects of it by the use of Utilitarianism. I will

prove that the
answer to the question “Is it ethical to apply and practice genetic engineering in animals?” is
“yes.”


GENETIC ENGINEERING


Genetic engineering in itself is a very broad topic. By simplest definition, it is the
manipulation of the genet
ic code of a species. Though the technological appearance of the
words “genetic engineering” sounds advanced, it has been occurring for thousands of years

not in laboratories or petri dishes, but through the selective breeding process. In this sense,
hum
ans have been practicing this for centuries by controlled breeding of animals and plants to
produce larger, healthier livestock or more desirable fruits/vegetables in more bountiful
harvests.
Unknowingly, we have created a precedent of intervening with na
ture.
Survivability,
appearance, size, and many other traits come into play.
In reality, the purpose of

genetic
engineering is
to enhance the production of a particular protein in the subject with the
intended result of a more desirable trait i
n the offs
pring of that subject.

The focus in this
writing however, will be held to the more recent, advanced, and technological side of genetic
engineering, where investigation is being conducted into the risks and benefits of the
procedures used and the results f
ound, considering the specific protein being examined, as well
as the particular type of animal.

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The main procedures used in the genetic engineering of animals start with the most
popular

cloning. The question is asked “If we could just replicate the p
erfect animal, why
wouldn’t we?
” By inserting the DNA of one animal into the fetus of another animal along with
a device that cleans out the DNA of the existing embryo, an identical subject to that of the
subject from which the DNA was drawn from can then

be created. Yet, it is extremely
inaccurate to date. Scientists have extreme trouble cloning embryos, and when they do,
mutation rates increase drastically in those embryos. However, this practice is not considered
“unethical” by the agricultural indus
try because it “is a reliable way of maintaining high quality
and healthy livestock to supply our nutritional needs and consumer demand” (www.bio.
o
rg).


A second attempt to genetically engineer animals

is that of xenografting. The idea of
the
process of

using animal DNA to supple
ment humans’ or vice versa has been around for
quite some time, but hasn’t been feasible until more recent scientific technology.
This process
is continually being tested for the purpose of creating interchangeable organs becaus
e the
genetics for this practice are much simpler. The ethical concern with this though, is that we are
using animals only for our own good and not theirs. Another concern is that, if a transplant of a
pig heart was conducted to save a human life, would t
hat subj
ect really be a complete human?
Still, the logical reply is that we use animals for meat. How is this any different?


Finally, manipulation of an animal’s DNA is the last type of modern genetic engineering
of animals. This category of the
subject is still highly unpredictable because of so many
variables. Injection of a hum
an DNA into an animal to try to

produce certain characteristics in
the new hybrid animal hasn’t had many successful results, but is still a

scientifically intriguing
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end
eavor.
Among the variables causing problems are the difficulties in doctoring the difference
of higher level organisms as well as differences that still occur between humans and animals.
Even though the hybrid animal organ may have a new, desirable chara
cteristic (if successful), its
architecture will still be the same (Genetic Engineering in Animals).


IMPROVING PUBLIC HEALTH


Currently, there are more than two dozen drugs in development resulting from the
genetic engineering of animals. Yet, none are

available commercially due to the fierce
regulations and obstacles of public health and politics
. The drug must abide by specific
guidelines such as “
promote good animal welfare, enhance industry credibility, and comply
with current regulatory requiremen
ts
” (
www.bio.org
).
However, this list does not include the
hundreds of transgenic medical protein products that are in pre
-
clinical development in the
categories of blood products, other protein
-
based products, vaccine c
omponents, and
replacement tissue products (
www.bio.org
).


In regards to blood products, “the uses of genetically engineered animals for bio
-
manufacturing enables scientists to develop proteins with uni
que attributes th
at might offer
commercial or therapeutic advantages over compounds made through traditional production
sources” (Genetically Engineered Animals and Public Health, 10). The list includes widely used
and vital blood products like antithrombin and human albi
um. Hereditary antithrombin
deficiency is caused by the presence of low levels or a lack of antithrombin, so some subjects in
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research and testing may develop blood clots in the
i
r large veins potentially casing organ
damage or even death. This is obviou
sly reason for a vote against the use of genetic
engineering of animals because it may put
some subjects at risk. Utilitarianism though, calls for
the judgment of an option by how much good it can do for those involved or how little bad
would result in th
e choice made. In this case, I think the option of pursuing the practice in an
effort to later on achieve a cure would definitely outweigh not taking any risk at all and not
developing any cure.


UTILITARIAN THEORY


More specifically, the Utilitarian
application is the comparison between the potential
damages to the patients and the benefits they could help produce. The issue is whether or not
the suffering of these non
-
human subjects is worth the medical advanceme
nts for human
benefit
--
I believe it i
s definitely worth it.


As already mentioned, xenografting is the process of giving animals human DNA and
vice versa. This brings up the question of whether or not a human is then part animal or an
animal is part human. If a human eats a chicken with h
uman DNA in it, is that person therefore
a cannibal? Where are the lines drawn? Would there then be discrimination for someone with
a heart from a big or liver from another animal? How would this affect that individual’s
performance in everyday activity
? On the other side, is that animal (having been injected with
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human DNA) now more human? Does that mean it should have more rights?
All of these
questions are raised hypothetically, yet most of them have real world answers.


In particular, the geneti
c engineering of animals can be used for research and testing
purposes to study how genes function by adding or deleting genes from a sequence. This way,
we can also investigate the effects of gene mutations, how genetic diseases occur, and how to
treat t
hem (Care of Use of Animals in Biomedical Research).
Diseases like cystic fibrosis,
K
linefelter’s

syndrome, and Tay
-
Sachs disease can then be evaluated more closely. Perhaps by
doing this, we could produce cures for such disorders.
However,
the
similari
ties between
humans and some animals (chimps, orangutans, gorillas, and bonobos in particular)

are fueling
a widespread effort to grant some so
-
called “human” rights to these species. This effort is
known as the Great Ape Project (Almost Human). The base
line of this project is that all great
apes have certain “indicators of humanhood.” They are self
-
aware, have distinct personalities,
form deep emotional attachments, are intelligent, and have rudimentary linguistic abilities

and are genetically similar t
o humans,” and therefore should be given at least some of the legal
rights that human s are granted (Almost Human). This human likeness of some animals is one
of the more compelling arguments against the genetic engineering and testing on of animals.
But
, if that is the premise, where then is the line drawn? Are all animals granted the rights of
humans? Or only some human rights? How do we determine which animals should get which
rights?

My question to those is, “If we are testing animals to help out
humans, wouldn’t
we
want to use

subjects closest to our own makeup and behavior
al

patterns?”

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Besides studying and research purposes, genetic engineering of animals can be used
medically valuable synthetic proteins, and could do so more economically and in more
sufficient quantities. In particular, genetically enhanced sheep can produce milk conta
ining
proteins Factor IX (human blood
-
clotting factor used to treat haemophilia) and Alpha 1
-
antitrypsin (used to treat emphysema and cystic fibrosis).
This practice could outstandingly
increase our ability to treat diseases just as these two examples hav
e shown.

The argument of affecting the population of some species then comes into play. If we
keep testing these animals, they say, the population will inevitably decrease because of
research and testing mishaps and torture. However, an application of
genetic modification in
animals rebuts this statement. One of the applications of transgenic protein advancement in
animal
-
tested genetic engineering is the manufacturing of vaccine components. Scientific
advancements allow us to do more than we ever cou
ld before, and with the help of more
subjects to use in testing and research, we could come to conclusions faster in regards to the
diseases we’re trying to combat.
This efficiency will then result in the production of these
vaccines at a lower cost. The

argument that we gain nothing but superiority over animals by
testing on them is disproved by the fact that “the application of transgenics to vaccine
production has not only public health benefits, but also national security implications. Our
ability to

respond effectively to an emerging viral or bacterial threat or pandemic could be
predicated on our ability to quickly scale up the manufacturing of a novel vaccine uniquely
tailored to an emerging virus or bacteria. Genetically engineered animals are un
iquely suited to
providing that capability” (Genetically Engineered A
nimals and Public Health, 14). Even more,
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c
loning endangered species does little to address the underlying causes pushing such species
so near to extinction.


The

World Wildlife Fund re
ports that the greatest threats to endangered
species are a result of human settlement, deforestation, water, soil and air pollution, climate
changes due to overuse of fossil fuels, and poaching to supply international markets with rare
animal parts
” (Fran
cione, 242).


Yet, this has no effect on the Humane Society of the United State’s Opinion. Their
standpoint is strictly against genetic engineering of animals, stating that it “has no real social
value” (HSUS Position Statement). Contrary to their argu
ment however, the realization that pet
animal overpopulation is resulting in an increase of companion animal homelessness

and is
becoming a growing problem in the United States is real. Harshly stated, if nothing else, this
testing can be done on these excess pet populations. Af
ter all, these overpopulations
are
resulting in unnecessary loss of animal life and millions of
dollars of taxpayers’

money

each year
(HSUS Position Statement).
However, their arguments are justified by a related issue

suffering of animal subjects. Evidence that some animals are purposely created to suffer is “
t
he
entire population of genetically e
ngineered research animals exist in bodies whose inevitable
fate is constant pain and unnaturally rapid deterioration.


These animals are specifically
"tailored to be hypersensitive to a variety of carcinogens, mutagen
s, taratogens, or other
poisons
"

(Gene
tic Engineering: Opposing Viewpoints).


Moreover, continuous arguments that the genetically modified
animals may provide
substances that are dangerous to humans. Though this may be the case, it does not take into
account the regulations on the matter.
The Council for International Organizations of Medical
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Biomedical
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Sciences (CIOMS) was created specifically for this issue. The “use of animals is also
indispensable for testing the potency and safety of biological substances used in human and
veterinary medicine, a
nd for determining the toxicity rapidly growing number of synthetic
substances that never existed before in nature and which may represent a ‘hazard’ to health”
(International Guiding Principles for Biomedical Research Involving Animals). This is evidence

that advancements made by genetic engineering of animals isn’t just used for human benefit,
but for that of animals also.


Genetic modification of animals is not unethical. Though there are a number of
negative aspects of the issue, such as the sufferi
ng of the animal, human exploitation of our
superior intellect, and potential breakout hazards of the testing and its unpredictability.
Through medical advancement, it has proved to provide benefits for both humans and animals
alike. The animal populatio
n is not depleted because of the regulations in place. Animal testing
is regulated by both government and private committees and organizations to restrict and
control the way scientists and their companies conduct their research. The fact that animals
ha
ve similar traits to humans, and should therefore be spared from research because of those
traits, is a complex yet hazy argument with a number of unanswered questions. The value of
the life of the animal being used is not neglected. Rather, they are use
d to help other animals
and humans. The potential benefits of genetic engineering prove to be more significant than
those

potential costs of the issue, resulting in the evaluation of this question

Is it ethical to
use animal subjects in genetic engineeri
ng?

to be a convincing “yes.”


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Biomedical
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