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Case Analyses on some works in science and ethics Essay

Case Analysis #1: DNA is the molecule of heredity

            From Gregor Mendel’s theory of existence of gene and their transmission from generation to generation, to Friedrich Mischer discovery of DNA, the creation of Watson-Crick Model  leading to the advancement of genetic engineering, biotechnology and cloning. These are among the historical evidences that DNA is indeed the molecule of hereditary. Furthermore, the most conclusive evidences in support of DNA as the genetic material came from the following three ways: transformation of bacteria, mode of infection of bacteriophage and conjugation of bacteria. In 1928, Frederick Griffith encountered phenomenon known as genetic transformation.

Oswald Avery, Collin Macleod Maclyn McCarty also gave evidence that DNA was the physical material for heredity (Verma, 2004). Other scientists that contributed for the discovery of DNA and heredity are Altmann, Albrechi Kossel, Walter Jones, Franklin W. Stahl, Chargaff, Dotty and many others (H.S. Bhamrah, 2002). Microbes served as the sources of progress of discoveries about the secrets and wonders of heredity. As the years passed, scientist learned how to control the processes of hereditary and protein synthesis to benefit our daily lives. It gave us much opportunity leading to genetic engineering and biotechnology (Alcamo, 2003). This scientific processes soon

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became a practical technology; from selective breeding, genetic engineering to biotechnology and cloning.

Case Analysis #2: Science is cumulative

The history of science and for scientists, one of the fulfillment of the work of science is the sense of continuing a great historical tradition, of carrying forward the work of predecessors and preparing the ground of successor (Laura Garwin, 2003). In the early 1900s, W. Johannsen, H. Nilsson-Ehle, E.M. East and R.A. Fisher tied the specific relationships of Mendelian genetics to biometrical approaches to develop the basis of quantitative genetics. In 1902-1903, on the other hand, Walter S. Sutton and Theodor Boveri associated Mendel’s results with cell meiosis to explain Mendel’s results, thereby connecting two independent disciplines, genetics and cytology to develop the chromosomal theory of inheritance (Dunham, 2004).  These are among those proofs that science is progressing because, at each moment in time, current theories are a better approximation and a more factual evidences to nature’s laws than past theories. However, Kuhn rejects the notion that science is cumulative in the sense that a new theory is necessarily an improvement on the one it replaces. He finds that science changes not in an evolutionary fashion but in a series of revolutions in which the world view of the members of the scientific community is significantly changed (Cole, 1992).

Case Analysis #3: Cancer research cost and the impact to society

Scientific research costs money, time and effort because of this, there is the need to acquire funds, be it a government or a private fund, to meet the costs for research raise ethical issues for the scientists or researchers. Decisions regarding funding have many implications. Such decisions should have a substantial impact on society as well as major impact on the career development and must have a huge contribution to knowledge, in this case, in the field of science and medicine. It depends on the societal priorities that makes some areas of research are preferentially supported over others (Deni Elliott, 1997). Cancer, being the most feared of all diseases, often associated with dying, making it as second most common cause of death in the U.S. Unlike other killer disease, cancer usually causes a slow death involving pain, suffering, psychological distress, financial burden upon long-term therapy and a feeling of hopelessness. Because of this, billions of dollars have been invested over the years in cancer research. Despite the enormous effort to fight for cancer, the number of new cases of nearly every form of cancer continues to persist. Cancer research and treatment are extremely complex fields of study because the exact nature of the single cancer cell is so hard to pin down with has many different causes (Simone). Most antineoplastic agents are classified according to their structure or cell cycle activity. Two major classes of chemotherapeutic agents have been established: cell cycle phase-specific and cell cycle phase-nonspecific agents. Cell cycle phase-specific agents kill actively dividing cells only into a specific phase of the cell cycle (phases G1 through phase M). For example, vincreastine and vinblastine, are lethal only to cells in the M phase, while hydroxyurea and cytosine arabinoside inhibit DNA synthesis by targeting the S phase. Because phase-specific agents depend on cells being in a specific phase to work, they are most effective against cells that are rapidly cycling. Rapid cycling ensures that the cell passes through the phase in which it is vulnerable to the effects of drugs (Margaret Barton-Burke, 2006). However, treatment resistance in cancer do exists, which is related to the genetic diversity of the cancer cell population caused by series of mutation in a genetically unstable population making it vulnerable to effective intervention (James H. Goldie, 1998).

Case Analysis #4: Ethical issues of prenatal testing (amniocentesis)

Amniocentesis is a prenatal testing for the detection of chromosomal defects. It is usually performed between 16 and 20 weeks gestation as an outpatient procedure which only takes up about 20 minutes (Travis, 1988). A variety of genetic conditions can be identified through amniocentesis, including single gene disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, chromosomal abnormalities (e.g. Trisomy 21), and biochemical or metabolic disorders such as TaySachs disease. It is important to take into account that prenatal testing is performed to identify fetuses at risk for a genetic disorder and to identify fetuses at risk for poor prenatal outcomes. The main difference is that, the former usually does not have a curative intervention available to favorably correct the outcome, while the latter testing is done because there is an appropriate therapy that can positively influence fetal/infant health and well-being. This is an important distinction given it has long been held that the mother has the right to choose or not choose to have prenatal genetic testing performed on the fetus. The legal system has upheld the only right to the woman to choose the outcome of the pregnancy. For most genetic disorders identified through prenatal diagnosis, the mother and her partner are given with the choice of whether to continue or discontinue the pregnancy; and if continued, raising or giving for adoption a child with minor to severe adverse effects on growth and development (Lachman, 2006).


Alcamo, E. (2003). Microbes and Society: An Introduction to Microbiology: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Cole, S. (1992). Making Science: Between Nature and Society: Harvard University Press.

Deni Elliott, J. E. S. (1997). Research Ethics: A Reader: UPNE.

Dunham, R. A. (2004). Aquaculture and Fisheries Biotechnology: Genetic Approaches: CABI Publishing.

H.S. Bhamrah, C. M. C. (2002). A Textbook of Genetics: Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.

James H. Goldie, A. J. C. (1998). Drug Resistance in Cancer: Mechanisms and Models: Cambridge University Press.

Lachman, V. D. (2006). Applied Ethics in Nursing: Springer Publishing.

Laura Garwin, T. L. (2003). A Century of Nature: Twenty-One Discoveries that Changed Science and the World: University of Chicago Press.

Margaret Barton-Burke, G. M. W. (2006). Cancer Therapies: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Simone, C. B. Cancer And Nutrition: A Ten-Point Plan to Reduce Your Risk of Getting Cancer: B. Jain Publishers.

Travis, C. B. (1988). Women and Health Psychology: Biomedical Issues: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Verma, P. S. (2004). Cell Biology, Genetics, and Molecular Biology: Evoloution and Ecology: S. Chand.

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