Science breakthroughs are not surprising anymore these days. With modern technology and research studies, it is now possible to regenerate cells and even clone animals. For years, men have tried to modify the genetic make-up of animals for many applications. Another process known as transgenesis is being used in animals and plants. In biotechnology, there is a type of genetic engineering done with plants and animals to be used in the manufacturing of drugs. Despite the potential benefits this science development offers, the subject still remains to be contentious and views of people are still divided.
What Is a Transgenic Animal?
It is an animal that has a foreign gene or exogene which is also referred to as transgene from another animal cell that has been inserted to its genome so it can change its properties and later on pass it to its offsprings. The exogene is an artificial DNA created using recombinant DNA methodology. This artificial gene will come from two or more sources.
A transgenic animal is different from a cloned animal since the latter comes from an identical to the organism it was derived from. The first successful transgenesis was performed on a mouse and it can be processed by plasmid vectors, pronuclear injection,ballistic DNA injection, viral vectors and protoplast fusion. As research continued, the method was also used in cattle, pigs, rabbits, and sheep.
Used in experiments for medicines and medical treatments by pharmaceuticals and universities, transgenic animals are also used now in agriculture and also as disease models.
Despite the practice to be in existence for years now, transgenic animals still remains to be a divisive issue. Although there are groups which believe in the benefits of this scientific breakthrough, there are also sectors which are against the use of transgenic animals. It is best to know the views of proponents and opponents about this controversial topic.
List of the Pros of Transgenic Animals
1. They are used in clinical trial research.
One of the benefits of transgenic animals, according to proponents, is in pharmaceuticals. In order to create new medicines for different diseases, scientists need models for diseases. These animals are used in laboratories for clinical trial research. With their help, pharmaceuticals are able to come up with the cure for certain diseases.
2. They can be organ donors in the future.
Advocates for animal transgenesis claim that significance of transgenic animals in xenotrasplantation, a process of transplanting a cell or tissue from another species for medical purposes. The pigs have organs similar to humans in size and are readily available but their tissues age much faster. Proponents say that there will be a time animal organs can be used on people waiting for donors.
3. They can be used by diabetes patients who need insulin as well as patients with several diseases like sickle-cell anemia.
Supporters of the use of transgenic animals point out their importance for people who need insulin treatment and those who are undergoing treatment with the use of gene therapy. By genetically modifying DNA, these animals can produce human drugs like insulin, vaccines and blood clotting factors VIII and IX, among others.
4. They can be used to keep infants healthy.
Through the process of transgenesis, modifying the genes of a parent animal can produce offsprings with qualities human beings can make use of. According to proponents, scientists were able to modify a cow and the result is an offspring that can produce milk with casein, a kind of protein used for cheese manufacturing. These cows can now also produce lactoferrin which can be found in the immune system. This can be used as a an additive to infant formula.
5. They can be used in agriculture and livestock.
People in favor of the production of transgenic animals maintain that farmers and consumers can enjoy the benefits from raising these animals. With the use of this biotechnology, cattle and sheep can already be used in transgenesis. With this, farmers can have healthier animals and in the long run, this type of meat will be allowed to be used for human consumption.
List of Cons of Transgenic Animals
1. The use of transgenic animals is unethical.
Opponents for modifying genes of animals to create transgenic offspring say that doing so is clearly against moral ethics. Animal advocates, in particular, are the ones not in favor of this practice. They strongly affirm that animals have rights and altering DNA make-up is definitely a violation of these rights. They also are against the use of hundreds of animals in clinical trial research and transgenic animals are no different, according to them.
2. They can be unsafe for human consumption.
Critics posit that there is no assurance on the safety of the products coming from transgenic animals since not all experiments and researches are successful. They are also concerned about the long-term implications on use of these drugs and vaccines produces by these genetically modified animals.
3. They are victims themselves.
Opponents and animal welfare advocates are against the proliferation of transgenic animal applications. For them, there might be some truth to the fact that these animals can help in science and medicine. However, they also point out that many lives of animals are endangered and even ended just for one successful feat. Aside from being subjects of experiments, wherein success rates can be low, host animals can also be harmed in the process.
4. They are added expense to the government.
Just like cloning experiments, transgenesis is an expensive process and needs funding. Although pharmaceutical companies spend for their own, the government will have to spend money once these products cause harmful effects and the method backfires. They say that if meat from transgenic animals will be sold in the market and suddenly result diseases or medical problems, the government will have to find a solution and that entails expenses.
The issue about transgenic animals is debatable and the two opposing groups have significant views to express. Whether this science breakthrough is really beneficial or not, it is best that the pros outweigh the cons before it can be concluded it is for the best. If it is the opposite and the setbacks are more than the benefits, perhaps, further consideration is called for.