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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - October 1, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta TuMday, October 1, 1974 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD 5 Genetics: a population of Einsteins As a tribute to the one hundredth birthday of the city of Winnipeg, The Great-West Life Assurance Company will hold a centennial symposium at the Centennial Concert Hall, Oct. 27-30. Entitled the Dilemmas of Modern Man, the symposium has been designed to bring together some of the world's out- standing thinkers to discuss where man has been, where he's at and where he's going. To stimulate public interest in some of the major areas of concern with which the sym- posium will deal, a seven-part series has been prepared. This is the fifth in the series. Will each of us have identical twins in the future? Will scientists be able to order Einsteins or Shakespeares by the dozen? The prospect may seem but it is no longer only the fantasy of science fiction writers. Genetics is a relatively new science concerned with the study of heredity and likenesses between parents and their -offspring. Similarities and differences in human beings are a product of genes, .chemical carriers of hereditary information. Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk in the mid-nineteenth century is considered the father of modern science. In experiments with ordinary peas he discovered that genes were the carriers of hereditary information. The importance of his work was not recognized until long after his death. It wasn't until 1944, in fact that two American scientists, Oswald T. Avery and Colin McLeod, discovered the DNA molecule and uncovered the fact that genes are a chemical substance. From that day on genetics blossomed as a povverful science. In 1962, Drs. James Watson and Francis Crick first gave an accurate description of what DNA looks like. DNA determines whether an organism will develop into a man, a mouse, or a monkey. Berry's World 1974 by NEA. Inc. 'We were all set to resume diplomatic rela- tions, then Ford has his 'Bay of Pigs'by pardon- ing Nixon..." A molecule of it looks like a twisted ladder or double helix. The chemical basis for life rests in the fact that DNA can divide the rungs of its ladder to reproduce itself. What does all this mean for mankind? Dr. Watson has warned scientists and the rest of the world that genetics is a science with the potential to interfere with the nature of life itself. He warns that dis- coveries should be treated with respect and research should not be abused by politicians, as it was the splitting of the atom. Two significant de velopments which lend weight to Watson's words are "in vitro fertilization" (fer- tilization of the egg outside the womb... the much-feared test-tube babies) and "cloning (the asexual reproduction of the living organism which could present us with the prospect of Einsteins or Hitlers to In the past 18 months, three babies whose gestation began in test tubes have been born in Europe. The youngsters are reported as being healthy with no abnormalities. Sir John Peel, the Queen's former gynecologist, has described this development as a "tremendous step forward in the treatment of selected cases of So it is. but can it be abused? Could a mad dictator create armies of slaves in test tubes9 In his book Brave New World, Aldous Huxley describ- ed a situation where the genetic structure of the pop- ulation was controlled to produce individuals specifically suited for their role in society. Through cloning any number of humans could be produced identical to each other by removing the nucleus of the new cell and replacing it with an adult nucleus of the desired model. In this way, all the new cells would reproduce so that they looked exactly like the prototype. Neither of these two developments has reached full .maturity yet. No artifical womb has been invented and cloning is still only possible in amphibians. But the day may not be too far off when these developments will take place. Alvin Toffler, a symposium speaker and author of Future Shock, says new genetic knowledge "will permit us to tinker with human heredity and manipulate the genes to create altogether new ver- sions of Should we try to breed a super-race? Should all people have the same color of skin to eliminate racial strife? Should we control the sex of our offspring? Or should we strive for a world in which there is greater variety of people? Says Toffler: "The emotional and moral choices that will confront us in the coming decades are mind- 'staggering." And later: "The nature of what can and will be done exceeds anything that man is yet psychologically and morally prepared to live with." Genetics can be used for some very positive purposes. Women who find pregnancies difficult may never have to carry their children in their wombs. Some genes are faulty and the misinformation carried in them can create and recreate diseases such as haemophilia and cystic fibrosis. In fact, up to diseases have been traced to genetic causes and more discoveries continue. In December of 1973 it was estimated that approximately 5-6 per cent of all babies born have a genetic disease. These diseases can affect any system of the body and erupt at any time in life. Phenylketonuria or PKU is an example of a genetic dis- ease that may be eliminated Book reviews by the use of genetics. When a child is born with PKU his body cannot absorb phenylalanine, an amino acid which makes up the proteins in milk' and many common foods. It causes a progressive form of mental retardation. By pricking the baby's heel at birth and testing its blood, it is now possible to detect the presence of PKU and prescribe a special diet low in phenylalanine. This therapy has already allowed many children to lead a fairly nor- mal life. But further progrs s is possible. By genetic screening many diseases can be detected even before a child is born. Parents can be told if a child will have an incurable disease. If he has, should the fetus be aborted or should the pregnancy continue? Again, a myriad of moral questions arise. Who decides whether th'e child will live society, which may have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the sick child? Or the parents who are torn between love of the child and the real problems of cop- ing with life? Genetics is a possible means for ridding the earth of many tragic diseases. It may also be used to recreate a cer- tain life, to breed a superior race, to subdue a minority group or to alter the genetic structure of man altogether. Knowledge and intelligent discussions are essential if man is to benefit from these tremendous discoveries and not be destroyed by his own curiosity. Rebuilding Germany "The Rise Of Western Ger- many Since 1945" by Aidan Crawley, (Collins, 302 This is a well documented accounting of West Ger- many's rise from post Hitler shambles to the rich nation it is today. Wesc Germany was in a total state of chaos following the Nazi regime. 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