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Safety and ethics of DNA technologies

Visit us for health and medicine content or for MCAT content. These videos do not provide medical advice and are for informational purposes only. The videos are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen in any Khan Academy video. Created by Ronald Sahyouni.

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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user oskargonzalez
    What does this have to do with the MCAT?
    (2 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user Sarah
    The video didn't really mention the legal, & Socidiel issues of the HGP (Human Genome Project). I clearly understood the Ethical issues, but there's more than just the privacy and genetic modification issues.
    (8 votes)
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    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Frank Gomez
      Although you should remember there are still possible futures that are good with this like getting rid or switching cancer gene albeit I see your concern but if we were afraid of everything that could go wrong we wouldn't get anything accomplished and mastered. Indeed I agree there should be some rules and precautions but aren't risks something humans have been doing since the dawn of our creation
      (5 votes)
  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user 雪山
    If you are concerned about the potential public sharing of personal health information including DNA information then you would be wise you study the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
    (4 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Bailan
    Ethical issues clearly talk about HCG.
    Human Genome project collected the whole genome data of human.
    What does this mean actually?
    Did they just decipher 3 billion base pairs of a single human?
    Or did they decoded the data of multiple people??
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Emmanuel Boo
    What are some of the ethical issues of the human genome project
    (2 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Anna Caroline
      If we're able to sequence everyone's genome and see what predispositions they may have for certain diseases (breast cancer was the example used in the video, or maybe a heart defect) these people could be seen as resource black holes to insurance companies and they may either have to pay ridiculously high premiums for health insurance or may be unable to get it altogether. Also, he mentioned it may be hard for those people to get jobs since they may be seen as weaker or their employer might think they will become unable to perform if they become ill. This also raises the question of privacy- what are insurance companies or employers entitled to know about our genes?
      (3 votes)

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.