Reprogenetics and Genetic Counseling: Scientific and Ethical Implications

Aly A. Mishal

Abstract


Genetic research and knowledge has grown to unsurpassed dimensions in the past decade. The Human Genome Project (HGP) showed that humans are made up of about 30,000 to 40,000 genes. The genetic background of many diseases and conditions could now be elucidated.
A conglomeration of factors plays significant roles in dealing with the widespread implications of these new genetic breakthroughs, including ethical, religious, psychosocial, economic as well as medical and scientific dimensions.
It is conceivable to use this new information to detect significant disease states, to undergo genetic counseling with individuals or families and to reach acceptable decisions as to how to deal with them. Examples of such conditions include prenatal, or the more recent preimplantation diagnosis, as well as genetic counseling of sickle cell disease, thalassemia, hemophilia, cystic fibrosis … etc.
Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) has been developed to identify serious genetic diseases in human embryos (or pre-embryos) before transfer to human uterus. Only embryos not affected by the specific genetic disorder could be transferred to the uterus.
This was a major step forward to the previous Prenatal Diagnosis (PND), which involves identification of genetic and other diseases during pregnancy, by using ultrasonography, amniocentesis or villous sampling. Fetuses affected by significant genetic diseases could then be aborted. Such decisions have always stirred strong ethical and religious opposition.

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