Science and Ethics

Breakthrough in Medical Science!

Link to the article:

Gene therapy restores sense of smell in mice

By James Gallagher

Health and science reporter, BBC News

Gene therapy has been used to give mice born without a sense of smell the ability to sniff their surroundings, an international team of researchers say.

The mice had a genetic disease which affected microscopic hairs in their body – called cilia – which can detect chemicals in the air.

Researchers hope their findings will lead to treatments for diseased cilia, which can cause blindness, deafness and kidney disease in people.

The study is in Nature Medicine.

Microscopic cilia stick out from many cells in the body. A range of genetic disorders called ciliopathies result in damaged cilia which can be fatal or severely debilitating. One symptom can be a lifetime without a sense of smell, called congenital anosmia.

Gene therapy

A groups of researchers, lead by the University of Michigan, looked at mice with a mutation in their Ift88 gene, which meant they struggled to produce cilia and could not smell.

The group created a virus which was capable of infecting cells with a working version of the Ift88 gene. This was injected into the nose on three consecutive days. This was able to restore the cilia and a sense of smell.

Prof Philip Beales from University College London was involved in the study. He told the BBC: “It is a proof of concept that has shown we can get that gene back into these cells, produce the right protein, produce cilia and function as expected.

He said the mice were then able to use their sense of smell to seek out food. However, it is hoped a similar approach could be used for other symptoms of the disorders.

Dr James Battey, director of the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders which part funded the research said: “These results could lead to one of the first therapeutic options for treating people with congenital anosmia.

“They also set the stage for therapeutic approaches to treating diseases that involve cilia dysfunction in other organ systems, many of which can be fatal if left untreated.”

[So hopefully such forms of gene therapy would be of use to treat hereditary diseases in humans. One of the most renowned studies in this field is pertaining to Parkinson’s disease, an illness long-thought to have no cure, but scientists and doctors all over the world are trying their best to achieve this miracle of inventing a cure for Parkinson’s.]

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Righting animal rights

Written by Tay Ang Chun, Thomas

Here are the links to the reference articles:

One speaks of the difference between pets and animals; the other on animal testing. But underlying both of these articles is the question: Should we be arguing about animal rights?

I believe that it is futile to argue about animal rights since cruelty to fellow human beings will continue to exist. I define cruelty in this essay as exploitation, torture and unnecessary murder.

A lemma I have to prove before proving my argument is that arguing for human rights and arguing for animal rights are not mutually exclusive. Although some people would argue that the two stand independent of each other, I do not think so. There exist a lot of people in the world who donate money to charity to feel good. For example, assuming that only animal rights charities and human rights charities exist in the world, then those people would only donate funds to the charity which convinces them. If people did not argue for animal rights, then all those people would give money to the human rights groups. Therefore the two are not mutually exclusive as arguing for one limits the resources available to the other.

Humans are innately superior to animals. There is a reason why humans are the dominant species on the planet, simply because we are better than animals. Human beings have more potential than all animals combined. For example, in our entire history, human beings have invented cooking, mathematics, logic, art, language, writing, systems of governance, codes of laws, economics, electricity, nuclear physics, and computers. We even managed to invent flight and space travel; two accomplishments which really proved our extraordinary abilities, as humans were never even meant, physically, to leave the ground! Animal have not been able to devise a working language. The most scientists have been able to discover are that some species of monkeys have certain warning calls, which does not amount to a language. Nor have animals invented a number system, nor have they established a functioning government, nor have they done even a fraction of what the human race has accomplished. It seems logical to conclude that humans are superior to animals.

Therefore, as humans are superior to animals, it stands to reason that we deserve to receive more care and attention than animals. Furthermore, since it stands that arguing for animal rights and arguing for human rights are not mutually exclusive, human rights should be given a larger priority than animal rights; this leads to the conclusion that we should argue for human rights over animal rights.

Thus, as cruelty towards humans will continue to exist, it is futile to argue for animal rights.

However, some argue that cruelty towards human beings will continue to exist regardless of human intervention. They argue that human nature is innately selfish, and donating money to charities simply would not help the situation of cruelty towards human beings.

That is not true, as can be told quite evidently from the existence of constitutions. Constitutions grant citizens rights to liberty and property, and protect their lives from anyone who would want to claim it. This example shows us that a human invention can help to solve the problem of cruelty to human beings.

Even if human nature is unchangeable, we still should try to control it through whatever means we can. For example, since human nature is inherently short and brutish, why don’t we just let wars happen uncontrollably? Why have the Geneva Convention and the UN? The answer is that although changing human nature is beyond our control, we can put restraints on it, and eventually through civilising the later generations, we can eliminate it.

In conclusion, as human beings are superior to animals, we should focus our attention on arguing for human rights, and not waste time on arguing for animal rights.

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Should scientific research be restricted in any way?

Adapted from:

Science is the study and knowledge of the physical world and its behaviour that is based on proven facts. It has existed since a long time ago, in every part of the world. Not only has it increased our standard of living tremendously, it has also continuously improved the efficiency and quality of work done. Scientific research has come up with innovative ways that have helped us solve many problems; such as poverty, through improvements in economy, and found cures to diseases through the invention of medicines. However, some would claim that scientific research should be restricted due to the harm that science brings about. Inventions due to scientific research such as cars have brought about detrimental effects such as air pollutions, deleterious weapons invented from science research such as bombs have caused destruction and research on human life have disrupted the normal way of life. Should scientific research be restricted in any way? I would say that it should not be restricted as it have benefited us greatly and although it has also brought about unwanted problems, new solutions have been found to solve them.

Firstly, scientific research is the solution to palliate poverty. Science is the golden path to alleviating poverty and brings success to many of the developing countries in our world today. Through scientific research, new and more effective ways of doing things are being uncovered. For an economy, new and improved ways minimize the cost of production, maximize the output with improved technology and thus, increasing revenue. The economy of a country is brought to a greater height and more profits can be earned. For example, in the 1960s, Singapore faced an economy downfall due to great competition from stronger powers. Many people lost their jobs and were trapped in poverty. Due to scientific research, new technology in 1970s brought about more effective ways of producing goods. The economy thus improved and Singapore became a more developed country. Some may disagree that scientific research can mitigate poverty as other factors such as corrupted and venal government can use the money for personal gains. Money would not be properly channeled to the poor and poverty will still be present. However, I still stand firm to my stand, that through close monitoring, I believe this is achievable and poverty can be alleviated in the long run.

Secondly, scientific research can be used to solve problems like lack of necessities such as water. Through scientific research, such necessities can be created through the inventions of innovative ideas to produce them. For countries such as Singapore that does not have its own water supply, dearth of water is a very drastic as water is an important source for human survival. However, through scientific research, such problem can be solved. In the past, we used to purchase water from Malaysia for Singapore was not equipped with the modern technology to have its own supply of water. However, today due to scientific advancement, Singapore is able to create its own water supply – the NEWater and in any case where Malaysia refuses to sell water to us, we still have our own supply of water. Although some economists might say that such scientific research is too costly and the money used on such research can be used for other beneficial areas such as improving healthcare or education, I stand strong to my point as such necessity is imperative for survival. In addition, we should ensure that such necessity would always be present.

Thirdly, cures for disease can be found through scientific research to protect humanity. New afflictions arise in our everyday life. Only through scientific research, remedy and treatment for such new diseases can be found to save lives. If no cure were to be found, such disease can cause death or can be passed down to the next generation and will never be eradicated. For example, during the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) period, SARS affected many people and thousands of innocent lives were taken. If no cure was found, people would still be suffering in pain with this disease which leads to death. People might claim that although, such cures can be found, many people, especially the poor would not be able to afford them as scientific research is too costly. However, saving lives is more important and in the long run, subsidies from the government can be provided for people and all would then be able to receive such cures.

On the other hand, some people claim that scientific research is harmful to humanity.

Firstly, the improvement of our life in terms of efficiency of work done have brought about negative side effects to humans as well. Through scientific research, inventions such as cars have improved our ease of transport eminently. The time taken for us to travel is reduced tremendously and our standard of living has increased exceedingly. But some feels that the ruinous side effects such as global warming, air pollution and acid rain due to harmful gases like carbon dioxide emitted from cars have affected our health also. However, I strongly feel that science has also provided solution to such damaging effects. Through scientific research, environmentally friendly cars such as solar-powered cars and lead-free petrol have been invented to ensure such harmful environment effects do not affect the health of people. Thus, scientific research should not be restricted as it can and have constantly improving our lives.

Secondly, science can cause destruction to mankind. Due to scientific research, some people feel that more destructive and harmful weapons are invented and in this way, human lives are threatened. In the past wars involved the usage of only simple weapons such as rifles. Presently, the extent of wars has escalated as massive destruction weapons such as bombs and nuclear weapons are readily used. For example, during World War II, the bombs ‘Little boy’ and ‘Fat man’, the first nuclear weapons were invented and dropped in Hiroshima, Japan. 70,000 to 130,000 people were killed instantly. Thus, some feel that scientific research should be restricted as it is harmful to human lives. However, scientific research should not be restricted as such invention of weapons is a form of protection of a country from any deterrence to potential attackers.

Thirdly, some people would feel that scientific research affects the normal way of life. Scientific research on human lives through experiments such as cloning is deemed as immoral and unethical. They believe that God had created each human being unique and there is no such need for experiments such as cloning to be conducted as it would seems to be defying God. However, scientific research on human would allow us to understand more about ourselves and facts that have yet to be discovered to as to increase our knowledge on ourselves and educate the next generation about human beings.

The benefits brought by scientific have improved the standard of living of people tremendously. The foremost problems in society such as poverty, lack of necessities, diseases that could not be solved in the past can now be alleviated using the new ways found by scientific research. Although negative side effects are present due to scientific progress and human lives are being threatened, scientific research has also came up with solutions for such harmful effects. Thus, scientific research should not be restricted so as to allow mankind to continue to benefit from it.

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“Euthanasia: a Horrible Thing or the Solution to Torture?” What is your stand on this?

Adapted from:

A gravely ill man lies in bed awaiting death. He exerts all his energy upon every breath he takes. One of life’s agonies is waiting for it all to be over. Euthanasia, a remedy for this man’s unfortunate situation, could be his solution to happiness. It has been a long disputed act in the United States and Europe. Euthanasia is the practice of painlessly ending the lives of people who have incurable, painful, or distressing diseases or handicaps. Euthanasia is sometimes called ‘mercy killing’. To begin, one aspect of euthanasia’s benefits is the fact that the quality of life when a person is chronically ill tends to be very bad. Euthanasia can end an uncomfortable and painful life. Secondly, euthanasia can save families money on medical bills. The cost of keeping a person alive with an unfortunate fate would be higher than a person who chooses to pass away. Lastly, a person, legally, should have the right to end their life.

Firstly, the issue of quality of life plays a large role in the support of euthanasia. Lying in bed all day can be a form of torture within itself. Bed sores and boredom result from staying in bed, wasting away. Also, illness such as cancerous diseases and other sicknesses decline the quality of life. Of course, pain plays a role in this matter. It’s very difficult to function in everyday life when pain is a constant companion. To most people with any of these problems, in their point of view, value of existence can be low.

Continuing along on this issue, the cost of medical bills and like billing can cost families a lot of money. Health insurance covers an average of 80 percent of medical billing. These insurance companies only provide a certain amount of money for care and then leave it to the immediate family of the person within medical care. When the savings of the patient run out, the money planned to be passed on to spouses and loved ones. Wouldn’t it be less expensive and more practical to take the euthanasia approach to the matter? In my opinion, yes, it would. The cost of flying a person to Europe for euthanasia would be less expensive. But why must they go to Europe”

As a final point, legally, people should be able to make the decision to kill themselves. The United States prohibits the act of suicide and euthanasia. Europe allows it, and the actually have professional organizations such as DIGNITAS® who professionally assist people in doctor assisted suicide. In the United States, abortion is permitted. The phrase used is “my body, my decision”. Shouldn’t that apply to mercy killing also? Everyone has their own opinion, and I have mine.

When an ill person gets ill, should thy have to lie in bed and await death? Should people grasp onto life for as long as possible? The quality of life begins to get worse with pain and suffering, and it costs a lot of money to keep a person alive. The legal aspect of euthanasia is unfair, with abortion being completely legal, and mercy killing forbidden. All I can say is if a person is holding on to a terrible life of pain and discomfort, why should the have to wait and wait to have the torture end”

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