Biotechnology a boon or a Curse
The age of genetic engineering and biotechnology has enabled the humanity to save lives and make them better and to upgrade lifestyles in many ways. Ongoing research and innovations in these fields aims at diverse areas from advancing health care facilities to increasing crop production to boost food supply, undoubtedly adding to the quality of human lives. However, whether these technologies are actually bliss or a curse is still a question of debate as every new development increases the risk of misuse of such technologies. Some aspects of these developments also raise ethical questions in terms of their destructive capacity. However, the dual use quandary cannot dictate the entire research and development in biotechnology and genetic engineering as further research in healthcare and food security is indispensable.
Many such studies that aim at finding new ways to curb diseases have been in news recently. For example, some of the recent research aims at reducing mosquito population to eradicate malaria and other diseases like dengue. About 3.4 billion people, almost half of the world's population, are at risk of malaria. In 2012, the estimated number of deaths due to malaria was 6, 27, 000. Advanced prevention and control measures have resulted in a remarkable reduction in malaria mortality rates by 42% globally since 2000 and by 49% in the African Region. However, people living in the underdeveloped countries are still the most vulnerable to malaria.
For a long time scientists are involved in research and development of new techniques based on genetic engineering that can be used against infectious diseases like malaria and dengue. Recently, a technology that enables altering of mosquito DNA to develop resistance for malaria parasite has been developed. This can be of significant help in controlling and eventually eradicating malaria. This new technology can also be used against a wide range of other species like herbicide-resistant weeds. The technique is known as Crispr, which is a system of molecules used to alter DNA of mosquitoes with exquisite accuracy to make mosquitoes resistant to malaria parasite.
On the other hand, few scientists have created sperm-less mosquitoes in an effort to curtail the spread of malaria. The technique of insect sterilization has been attempted by scientists in past also to control the tsetse fly, which carries sleeping sickness disease, by divulging them to radiation to make them sterile. However, during further research it has been found that radiation tends to leave Anopheles Gambiae male mosquitoes (world’s most efficient malaria vector) insubstantial in mating with their partners. So, scientists have now developed an alternative procedure to make male mosquitoes sterile without harming them. Gradually and eventually, such kind of technologies can be used in fighting against deadly diseases and saving lives, however their impact on the ecosystem has to be studied meticulously to avoid long term effect before it’s too late.
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