While researching for the upcoming paper assignment, I had just decided on Gattaca for my topic of choice. Gattaca is a 1997 sci-fi film which explores the concept of eugenics in a world where the embryo is selected preimplantation through genetic predisposition testing to ensure the best possible result of the two parents. In some ways this is like an extreme case of natural selection but forced instead of by chance.
The following article written by Carl Zimmer, a New York Times column author, talks about the recent scientific advancement of genome mapping. Like in Gattaca, we can now map the entire genome sequence of individuals thanks to scientists like James Watson who co-discovered the structure of DNA. This genomic testing opens up many doors for discovering gene’s that could be harmful later in life. Genetic markers like ApoE4 (Alzheimer’s Disease ) and BRCA1 (Breast Cancer) can now be identified in newborns. These markers are determining the future, sometimes seventy years in advance determining fate.
A new study will be taking place soon called BabySeq, where 480 newborns will have their DNA sequences and the results given to their primary physician in order to answer “If you have your genome readily available from birth, how is that likely to influence your life?”
While this seems like a step in the right direction, this concept could have consequences. The study is currently being reviewed by an ethical board, for rightful reasons. Sequencing DNA and revealing your health for life is a scary matter. Should the results be told to the patient? Will these results impact the way a person lives his /her life? And where will this research go? It is important to consider the natural process of genetics, evolution and natural selection. It seems to me that this is the beginning research that could lead to an unethical eugenics based world similar to what’s seen in Gattaca.