Part 3: Ethical Dilemma
Think of these two scenarios: First, you have just found out you have a genetic disease.
You feel fine and have no symptoms. You can now take preventative measures to insure
this disease does not occur. You can also have your children tested to find whether they
will get the disease. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful possibility? Second: Your insurance
company has found out about your genetic disease. When it comes time to renew your
policy, your insurance company declines because of your genetic disease. Is this fair?
Discuss these scenarios with your tutor. Can you think of other ways that knowing your
genetic code would be beneficial to you? How might having your genetic code cause
other problems? What could be done to avoid these problems?
II. Vocabulary. Match the words to their meanings. Then find the words in the text
and underline them.
trait _____ a. a piece or part; a section
decipher _____ b. having an effect on something without using force
symptoms _____ c. coming one after another; a succession
diagnose _____ d. to change completely
sequence _____ e. signs; indications
revolutionary _____ f. made up of many parts
incredibly _____ g. to find the meaning of something
complex _____ h. beyond belief
influence _____ i. feature; characteristic
segment _____ j. to find by examination or testing
III. Technical Vocabulary Review. Here are definitions of the technical words in the
Cells - the unit of living matter
of which all living things are
Chromosomes - Structures in
the nucleus of a cell.
DNA - Chromosomes consist
of DNA molecules. These
molecules contain the Base
Pairs which hold genetic
Genes - Specific segments of
DNA that control cell structure
and function; the functional
units of inheritance.
Nucleus - The most prominent
part in living cells.
The first person to study genetics was Gregor Mendel. He experimented with pea plants
and found the laws of dominant and recessive genes in 1866.Then in 1953, James Watson
and Francis Crick found that DNA carries the genetic code. Charles De Lisi introduced
The Human Genome Project at a Santa Fe conference in 1985. By 1989 the US
Department of Energy in coordination with the National Institute of Health officially
began the project. In 1990 they published a joint research plan, "Understanding Our
Genetic Inheritance: The U.S. Human Genome Project."
There are 30,000 to 40,000 genes in a human genome. In the nucleus of a cell reside
chromosomes, which carry all of our human genes. These genes are pieced together like
a map. Each gene has a place on this map. We know that this map exists. We just don’t
know how to read it; how it’s coded. If we can find out where on the map each of our
genes are located, then scientists will have an easier time of finding the answers to many
questions about how to cure or prevent diseases. The Human Genome Project will
decode this map. The goals of The Human Genome Project are:
• To identify all 30,000 – 40,000 genes in the human DNA.
• To determine the sequence of 3 billion chemical pairs of DNA.
• To store this information in databases and make it available to scientists.
• To address ethical, legal and social issues that may develop from this project.
• To train research personnel in this field.
• To develop technology and transfer that technology to others.
This research would help us control human disease, aging and death. Scientists are
looking for genetic links to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental illness and alcoholism.
It will help us to understand and eventually treat many of the more than 4000 genetic
diseases that afflict mankind. New technologies developed from this project will also find
application in other fields such as agriculture and the environmental sciences. These
technologies will be valuable for evaluating the effects of radiation and other
environmental factors on human genetic material. It is anticipated that the private sector
will derive great benefit from the data and the techniques developed by the human
genome program and will develop many useful applications based on the new knowledge
produced. Within a few years, DNA sequence information will undoubtedly be a major
tool in most areas of basic and applied biological research.
In addition to mapping the human genome, this year (2002) The Human Genome Project
is beginning to map genes from other organisms. The Department of Energy's Joint
Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California, has been enlisted to determine the whole
genome sequences of a variety of infectious bacteria—a first step toward developing tests
when bacterial infections are suspected in patients.
You can imagine how wonderful it would be to have a doctor consult this “map” to find
out if the illness you or your family member has might be quickly diagnosed. With the
human genome mapped out, you will know if it is a genetic disease. With bacterial
infections, a simple test will tell your doctor what strain of bacteria it is, and what
treatment is necessary. The time saved with diagnosis improvement will improve
The National Human Genome Research Institute has a very comprehensive website, if
you are interested in the progress of The Human Genome Project, at
http://www.genome.gov/. More information is provided by the U.S. Department of
Energy at http://www.ornl.gov/hgmis/.
V. Comprehension. Read the text again and answer the following questions:
1. What is the main goal of The Human Genome Project?
2. How many genes are there in the human genome? _______________
3. What is the name of the Project Director at the National Center for Human
Genome Research? ________________________________________________
4. A human cell contains how many chromosomes? ________________________
5. What kind of a molecule is a protein? __________________________________
6. What shape does DNA have? ________________________________________
7. How many based pairs does a complete human genome contain? ____________
8. What is a gene called, when it has an error and makes a protein that is not able to
do what it should?
9. A cell converts DNA to what similar molecule? _________________________
10. What do many diseases come from?
VI. Activities and Discussion.
1. Go over the text once more and discuss the definitions of the words you find
2. Search the library for more information on The Human Genome Project. You may
find information in magazines, newspapers or on the internet.
3. Discuss in your own words, the importance of discovering the diseases with
4. Is there a history of any diseases in your family? What are they? Share
information with your tutor or your group.
5. Write a paragraph about the characteristics and traits you have passed down to
your children. If you have no children, write about the characteristics and traits
passed down to you from your parents.