The implications of editing DNA for people

Carl Zimmer’s article about new findings in editing pig DNA could have been very boring if he did not show how these new genetic abilities directly affect so many people. What does Zimmer do to make the scientific information not only palatable, but actually interesting?

From the information Zimmer provided, including quotes and statistics, it seemed that he saw the new abilities of Crispr in a positive light; they can potentially help many people in need of organs. And yet, the photo at the top of this article is of pigs. How does this picture affect your reading of the article? Does it effectively show the ethical dilemmas that come with this finding? Or could Zimmer have done a better job at presenting all sides of this story?

I noticed in this article, as well as in the required National Geographic article, both journalists used sources who were not involved in the research being examined in each article. Why is this common in covering scientific stories? What are journalists trying to show readers by including these sources?

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About erherman

I am a sophomore at the University of MIchigan

4 Responses to “The implications of editing DNA for people”

  1. I think the reason the article is relevant–and interesting–is BECAUSE it affects people. The fact that the new technology can save the lives of those who need organ transplants is the “why we care” aspect of the story. Because it affects humans, it is personable and applies the niche scientific details to real people’s lives.

    In terms of the pig photograph, I do think it cast an interesting message on the entire article. For me personally, it made me think about the pig aspect of the ethical debate–are human lives so much more important than pigs, that we can essentially harvest them for their organs? Obviously, pigs are extensively used for food, so that particular ethical dilemma is to me quite hypocritical. Nonetheless, the picture of the pig brought that debate of ethics to mind, and interestingly, the pig debate was not mentioned in the article. Rather, the ethical debate over how far scientists can ethically go in manipulating genetics was the debate considered in the article. Because of the two sides presented in the article–that the value of human life outweighs the risk of genetic manipulation, and that genetic manipulation could go too far–a better picture would have been of a genome, a human, or something to do with organ transplants. In terms of the actual genetic manipulation debate, I think both sides were presented fairly.

    On another note, I think citing sources who were not directly involved in the research being presented offers a new perspective from another expert. Some of it likely has to do with access–the journalists writing the story may be reaching out to whatever connections he or she can access–and these resources may not be the principal agents in the specific scientific discovery or topic. However, as long as these sources are experts or offer credible insight, I think they are equally (or at least differently) valuable to the story.

  2. I agree with Clare that the picture of the pigs at the top of the article made me believe that the ethical dilemma of harvesting organs from living animals would be brought up and discussed. When the topic was not mentioned, I was rather confused as to why the picture was used. I feel like the author could have come up with a picture that gave more life to the story than the picture of the pigs. I think, however, that the purpose of the story was to inform people of exciting new technology that could help so many people in the future. While the ethical dilemma may be an important topic, and may have helped make this story a little more balanced, the research in genetic manipulation is far from complete, and ethics is probably a topic for another news story. I believe that this story did a good job of reporting about the genetic aspect.

  3. The picture of pigs at the top of the article does seem somewhat odd. It made me think of the title of the piece. Just by reading the title and looking at the picture part of me asked the question, how could this be possible? So in that sense I think it provided a good hook for readers. providing outside sources when discussing scientific research is valuable because it gives readers independent analysis on the outcome of the discussed research. They are able to discuss the importance or unimportance of the research that has been published. Sources other than the ones related directly to the research also serve to discuss the implications and conclusions of the research released. Independent analysis showcases what the research means for the public, so it’s a great way to unbiasedly translate scientific research into words everybody can understand.

  4. I thought this article was effective in explaining the complicated process of gene altering, compared to the article written on notecards from last week. It provided adequate background information in a clear manner, and also provided outside links for anyone who wanted to know more. I also liked how the author dealt with the ethics of gene altering in humans. He detailed the potential unintended effect of designer babies, but also talked about the other side of the argument about the benefit pig organs will have on people. The line about how people on organ transplant wait lists have to wait for someone else to die was a very effective emotional argument.
    In relation to ethics on using pigs for experimentation, I happened to spend last year working in a research laboratory that used pigs for organ transplantation experiments. All the animals received round the clock care and anesthesia/sedatives whenever they might be in pain. There are very high standards. They received much better care than they would have at a factory farm or slaughterhouse, yet most people are comfortable eating meat from pigs.

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