According to the website New Scientist, Lee Sweeney (University of Pennsylvania) has altered and intentionally injected a virus into rats . Sweeney was attempting to create a virus which would transport a gene named IGF-I. The gene is responsible for stimulating growth hormone, which triggers muscle growth. The rats hind leg muscles rapidly grew in size. Some of the rats were put on an intense exercise routine. In very little time the rats that had exercised intensely showed a 15-30% increase in strength. Sweeney also had a group of rats that were injected but did not follow an exercise routine, these rats still showed 15-20% increase in leg strength. The purpose of Sweeney’s experiment was to discover a cure for muscular dystrophy. Although the results seem promising, the genetic alterations are not ready to be used on humans. To Sweeney’s surprise half of the emails he received in reference to the experiment were from patients, the other half was from athletes. Unlike any other illegal enhancement drug, these injections would not show up in blood or urine. Although athletes may be able to get away with the injections without being caught there could be horrific side effects. Similar gene therapies in Europe for sickly patients have caused cases of leukemia. Sweeney also explains modifying the IGF-I for the sole purpose of athletic enhancement could actually cause muscles to become too big and actually destroy bones. Although this discovery is a big step towards a cure for muscular dystrophy, it is still in the beginning stages and further research needs to carried out. As far as athletic use, in my opinion it is too risky and the risks outweigh the benefits.
The thought of genetically altering foods we eat is quite a controversial topic. Many are against the idea of genetically enhancing animals or plants we eat. According to the CNN article, “The good, the bad and the genetically engineered”, genetic modification could be beneficial to human health contrary to the common belief. The article explains that it is possible to make healthy foods even more healthy with genetic enhancement. For instance an orange could be programed to have nutrient levels equivalent to a multivitamin or tomatoes and broccoli could be injected with cancer fighting substances. The article also explains that the “good” in certain plants and animals could be crossed with another plant or animal to create new foods that were never seen before. The article also suggests the idea of altering genes in certain foods to enable anyone allergic to be able to consume the food. An article on Wired Science discusses the idea of ”clipping genes” in peanuts to reduce the risk of food accidents. Wired Science explains that it will be difficult to create a perfectly safe peanut; however, researchers have been trying to discover a way. Personally I never really liked the idea of genetically altering foods; however, my view point has been changed after reading the articles on CNN and Wired Science. The articles clearly presented positive usage of genetic modification in foods, proving genetic enhancement is not always a bad thing.