Loading

Safety and ethics of DNA technologies

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] So, DNA technologies are really cool and they've provided us with a lot of really good things. However, there are some safety and ethical issues that surround DNA technology. So, back in 1975 there was a conference on recombinant DNA and they concluded that recombinant DNA used for research purposes can be particularly risky. And so they implemented a set of guidelines to try and minimize that risk. The NIH later issued formal guidelines for recombinant DNA work and now they're very well regulated and there are lots of laboratory safety procedures to try and regulate the use recombinant DNA in the lab. So, one example of a safety concern would be what if we transferred... cancer genes. So if we took cancer genes and then we put them into a bacterial genome, then that bacteria could infect someone and it could potentially transfect cancer genes into an individual. So, that would be pretty bad. So, that's one example of a safety concern using DNA technology. Another safety concern is how do we protect researchers that are working with recombinant DNA from being effected by the technology. Well there are a lot of safety guidelines in place to try and minimize any exposure risk that researchers have when working with these recombinant DNA technologies. So some ethical issues that come up... include... if we're able to modify the genome, then imagine that there's a pregnant woman and we're able to sequence the baby's genome, and let's say that we notice that there's some kind of defect. What are the ethics surrounding the correction of that defect? Is it ethical to fix a mutation that might cause a cancer, for example? How do we know that fixing the mutation isn't going to cause some other cancer? How do we know what the long-term effects of genetically modifying an infant's genome are? So these are all ethical questions that kinda surround that. And if we kinda drag it out, what if an individual's perfectly normal genetically, is it okay if we put in genes that help, that make them smarter or faster? What are the ethics surrounding that? So those are some ethical issues. So that would be genetic modification. So another ethical concern that has been brought up is we're able to genetically fingerprint individuals. So forensic scientists are able to pinpoint a suspect's DNA. They're able to figure out what individual left a DNA sample at a crime scene for example. So, we're getting better at genetic fingerprinting but what are the ethics around that? What if the government was able to track every single person that opened a certain door based on the DNA that was left behind, or what if someone took a piece of gum that you spit out on the sidewalk and isolated DNA and was able to track it back to you. So there are some problems around privacy issues. So, I'll write that down here "privacy issues". And with the Human Genome Project, how do we prevent genetic information from being used in a discriminatory manor? So for example if we know that someone has the gene for a specific breast cancer then maybe health insurance companies won't insure that individual, or maybe future employers won't want to offer that individual a job because they know oh, this individual is gonna get breast cancer later on, we don't want her working here. So there are these privacy issues that come up with the ability to be able to sequence and modify a genome.