Thursday, May 12, 2016

SHOULD HERITABLE GENE EDITING BE USED ON HUMANS?


“The medical potential is enticing, but the technology raises biological and ethical concerns. Gene editing for human sperm, eggs and embryos could eliminate disease – but also lead to designer babies”
Published: The Wall Street Journal , April 10, 2016, You will need to sign in to read the text but it is free http://www.wsj.com/articles/should-heritable-gene-editing-be-used-on-humans-1460340173# OR  https://hms.harvard.edu/news/should-heritable-gene-editing-be-used-humans
Level of Difficulty: ***
FIRST WATCH AND LISTEN TO THE FOLLOWING:
NOW WATCH AND LISTEN TO THE FOLLOWING:
LAST OF ALL, WATCH AND LISTEN TO THE FOLLOWING:
QUESTIONS
1.       Which of the following best expresses the main idea of the section as far as “Yes”, or the introduction of the text?
·         Heritable gene editing is a worthwhile venture
·         Heritable gene editing is a fool-hardy venture
·         Heritable gene editing is a rash venture
·         Heritable gene editing is an inevitable venture
·         Heritable gene editing is a controversial venture
·         Heritable gene editing should progress slowly
·         Heritable gene editing should progress carefully
·         Heritable gene editing should be regulated
2.       Read the section titled “YES: If evidence shows the technique is safe and effective” and decide how many of the following could best complete the sentence. Parents who carry gene mutations for terrible heritable diseases …………………………………….
·         Now have little option but to allow the disease to run its course
·         Now have little option but to have no normal kids
·         Now have no option but to resort to adoption and donation
·         Now suffer due to unsatisfied psychological and physical needs
·         Now remain dissatisfied with the solutions they are offered
3.       The main disadvantage of the current policy in place to avoid having children with heritable diseases is the fact that…………………………………………………….
4.       The reason for the above is that………………………………………………………
5.       The writer thinks we need to wait / we don’t need to wait until we understand the whole human genome to conduct heritable gene editing because: (Mark as many as you see fit)
·         Current technology will allow us to edit for heritable diseases
·         We have proved with past medical developments that we can do it
·         We can check for one component without understanding the whole
·         Current technology already allows us to screen for some diseases
6.       What does “This” refer to in the phrase “This is far higher certainty…”?
7.       Which adjective is wrong according to the information in the text? The writer feels the use of gene editing to treat adults is:
·         Harder
·         Impossible
·         Riskier
·         Ineffective
8.       What three things does the writer feel are necessary to be able to safely go ahead with heritable gene editing?
9.       Now read the section titled “NO: The biological risks and ethical concerns call for caution”. The problem with reproductive gene editing for heritable diseases is that: mark the answer that is wrong according to the text
·         Scientists will have one shot to get it right
·         There will be no room for error
·         The alterations will be permanent
·         The risks are far too great
·         The implications of the changes are unpredictable
10.   Up to now public and official reaction to the prospect of gene editing has been positive/ negative.
11.   The writer feels that there is no need to take unnecessary risks as there are……………
12.   What is the alternative suggested for heritable gene editing?
13.   There are various personal drawbacks of this alternative listed in the text. Can you think of another one with wider ethical implications?
14.   What would be the social implications of possible “offspring upgrades”?
15.   What is the scientific argument against genetic enhancement of any kind?
16.   The writer trusts/ doesn’t trust officials to be able to successfully regulate gene editing.
WRITING TASK
Draw on all you have read and listened to in order to form an opinion concerning heritable gene editing and write an argumentative essay in which you defend your own opinion and refute the counter arguments.
SHOULD HERITABLE GENE EDITING BE USED ON HUMANS? KEY AND TEACHERS’ NOTES
What was once a farfetched dream has now become a distinct possibility thanks to advances in genetics: we may be able to edit genes to get rid of heritable conditions. Is the trepidation with which some approach the topic plain old paranoia and are they standing in the way of an enormous scientific breakthrough or do they have a point? Should we leave nature alone diseases and all, or should we try and tip the balance in our favor? This fascinating text will set out all the arguments and hopefully give students a chance to reach a decision.
  1. Heritable gene editing is a controversial venture
  2. 3, 4, and 5
3.       Embryos are destroyed
4.       Editing would be done on sperm or egg cells
5.       All are correct
6.       The fact that the latest versions of gene-editing enzymes have zero detectable off target activities
7.       Impossible
8.       Regulation, discussion and monitoring
9.       The risks are far too great. The fact that the risks are unacceptable doesn’t necessarily mean they are great. Sometimes a very small risk is unacceptable.
10.   Negative
11.   Safer ways
12.   Pre implantation genetic diagnosis
13.   Some unused embryos will be discarded
14.   The emergence of genetic haves and have-nots, with new forms of discrimination and inequality
15.   One genetic risk is generally traded for another (a gene that confers one biological risk might also protect against another)

16.   Doesn’t trust

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