The Human Genome Project, or HGP, was a concerted effort to map all the genes present in the human body. After formally launching in 1990, it was declared to be complete in 2003, giving the worlds of medicine and science the genetic building blocks of life from which to work.
HGP was an international research program that was highly collaborative by design. More than 3 billion base pairs are present within the human genome, which far exceeded the estimated range of 50,000-140,000 that were anticipated when the program began.
More than 20 different universities and research centers in the U.S., Japan, China, and Europe were involved in the long-term project.
Here are some of the key pros and cons that have or may develop because of the work completed by the Human Genome Project.
List of the Pros of the Human Genome Project
1. It could help with the diagnosis and prevention of human disease.
As we get to know more about the human body, we can understand how to manage and cure various conditions. Even genetic conditions could be treated, and even cured, because of the work conducted by the Human Genome Project. Understanding our genetic profile means doctors could diagnose conditions were more certainty, even if they are rare. This would lead to more early detection incidents. Over time, the prognosis rate would increase.
2. It would allow us to modify medication for more effective treatment cycles.
Medications before the genome was mapped were based on a one-size-fits-all solution. The medicine either worked for you, or it did not. One of the fastest growing areas in medicine is within the biopharmaceutical segment. Many of the advances that have come in the form of new medicines are a direct result of the work HGP performed more than a decade ago.
3. It could improve criminal justice proceedings.
Our human genome is part of what makes each of us unique. Because of the DNA studies which were part of HGP, we have begun to develop a process called “DNA fingerprinting.” By comparing DNA samples, one from an individual and another collected, we have another method of identifying people who may have committed a crime. As the science behind this process continues to improve, our systems of criminal justice can become more effective.
4. It helped to boost the economy.
The Human Genome Project was very successful from an economic standpoint. During its time of operation, more than 4 million people were employed by the project. It created nearly $1 trillion in economic stimulus. We’re still feeling the indirect effects of HGP in science and medicine as well. Numerous positions currently exist because of the research and work that the project completed.
5. It can help more than just humans.
We’ve taken our understanding of the human genome and applied that science to other types of life. We now know that animals and plants have their own unique genome as well. By evaluating the health and strength of each genome, we can begin to grow even better plants. We can help to create animals that are much healthier. In both efforts, we’re working toward the elimination of diseases that once had a profound impact on agriculture.
List of the Cons of the Human Genome Project
1. It may cause a loss in human diversity.
What makes humanity such a strong race is its diversity. Although diversity can have negative components to it, such as genetic defects or mutations, it also strengthens us in numerous ways. Through diversity, we gain new perspectives. We have more creativity. We even have a stronger physical base for our overall genetic profile as a species. If we grow towards restricting the genetic pool for humanity instead of expanding it, then we may become weaker as a race.
2. It could develop a trend in “designer” humans.With an ability to control the basic genes of a human, we gain the ability to create specific genetic profiles. Reproduction would become more about what could be done in a laboratory. Although this may strengthen the overall genetic profile of humanity with certain key traits, it would also create societies where everyone was essentially the same – if there was enough money involved.
3. Its information could be used to form new weapons.
Genetic information could be used to specifically tailor weapons to focus on population demographics. Once used, the weapons would focus on a certain genetic profile, eliminating all people with that profile from a civilization. That would reduce the amount of structural damage caused through conventional warfare, making it an attractive option for nations looking to secure more global resources.
4. It could become the foundation of genetic racism.
If humans can be designed in a specific way through information developed by the Human Genome Project, then we would create the foundation for a new form of “haves” vs “have nots.” Those who could afford the procedures to create genetically-specific humans would have an advantage over those who could not. Over time, this could lend itself toward societies that prefer “designed” people over “natural” people. That would create a new form of racism that is based not on skin color, gender preference, or sexual preferences, but on the actual genetic makeup of the individual.
5. It would be most accessible to wealthy cultures.
The science behind the advancements of HGP were collaborative during the research phase of the project. There is no guarantee that collaboration would extend to the practical application of technologies in this field. In most industries, the countries with the most wealth would gain first access to new technologies. That would mean the gap between the developed and developing world would continue to grow.
The pros and cons of the Human Genome Project have shown us that by exploring more about who we are, we can still change the outside world. Continued benefits from the project will be available for more than a generation. At the same time, however, we must take steps to prevent this information from falling into the wrong hands. Genome information can bring about a lot of good… or evil, depending on who holds the keys to the technology.