The Human Genome Project: Cracking the Genetic Code of Life
Thomas F. Lee
“The urge to understand how we and other living organisms function at cellular and molecular level has been a major impetus for scientific investigation.” (p. 183)
The second half of the scientific nonfiction book The Human Genome Project: Cracking the Genetic Code of Life discusses the processes that are used to discover the contents of the human genome. As the above quote shows, the Human Genome Project is a result of the desire to understand the basics of life functions that the DNA shows. A large portion of the second half details the use of information acquired from the project in order to possibly cure genetic diseases. The final portion of the book covers many of the problems, particularly ethical one, that are created by the Human Genome Project. I recently, did a lot of research on bioethics and a lot of the same topics that relate to genetics that I studied are discussed in this last portion of the book.
Lee does a very good job when discussing genetic diseases because he provides a lot of information on each one including symptoms, detailing what part of the population is most likely to have the disease, and how the Human Genome Project has helped to create treatments. Lee also does a good job when discussing ethical issues of providing multiple opinions that a variety of professionals have on these issues, including those that are opposed to the Human Genome Project. This book shows how with each new genetic accomplishment, there are a myriad of possibilities for how this new knowledge can be applied.
There are several ethical questions that are asked in these chapters such as: Who should be responsible for controlling the information that is discovered during the Human Genome Project?, Is it ethical for humans to choose the types of genes that embryos inherit (also known as Eugenics), and How ethical are controversial methods of curing diseases such as gene therapy? The impacts that the discoveries of the project are capable of having on the human life are very substantial. Genes are something that seem unimportant at first, but a lot of genetic diseases take many years until symptoms start appearing. Many people depend on the research that is being done by the Human Genome Project because of how genetic disease effect them or their loved ones. The book even discusses how genes may effect everyone in the future because of the possibility of future genetic screenings for employment or insurance coverage. This book made me realize the effect genetic diseases can have on my life. For example Alzheimer’s is a disease that has genetic but also undetermined factors. Alzheimer’s is a disease where 90% of people over the age of 80 show symptoms. Therefore it is very likely that people such as my grandparents.
My overall opinion of this book is that it provides a lot of necessary information for anyone who wants to learn a lot more about genetics. However, there were still some parts where I found it hard to understand. Specifically, I got a little lost when the book discussed all of the organization that effect the Human Genome Project. These are usually referred to using acronyms and it often got confusing as to what organization did what. I thought this was a great book and would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about genetics because it covers a lot of information and isn’t just specific to the Human Genome Project. I learned a lot from this book and I think this will help me in other classes such as biology because I now understand a lot more about genetics than before I read this book.