Proteger el acervo génico

CLEVELAND – Los seres humanos llevamos miles de años usando ingeniería genética para controlar la evolución de plantas y animales. Es inevitable que algún día también la usemos para modificar el rumbo de nuestra propia evolución. Hasta ahora, los ejemplos en ese sentido son pocos: hay servicios de citas en Internet que ya usan la compatibilidad genética de sus suscriptores como criterio de formación de parejas; también es cada vez más frecuente que se realicen exámenes genéticos sobre embriones y fetos, a pedido de los futuros padres, con el objetivo de que nazcan solamente aquellos que porten los genes más saludables; y los genetistas están mejorando (aunque lentamente) su capacidad para manipular directamente el ADN. Pero algo que nadie intenta hacer es introducir cambios genéticos en línea germinal (cambios que se transmitirán a las futuras generaciones).

Aunque la ingeniería evolutiva a gran escala sobre seres humanos todavía está muy lejos, puede llegar un día en que sea asunto de rutina. La humanidad se enfrenta a un doble desafío: sobrevivir lo suficiente para llegar a ese momento y reducir al mínimo los daños causados por el camino.

El peligro más inmediato es para los niños, que se enfrentan al riesgo de sufrir manipulaciones dañinas en su material genético. Los daños pueden ser físicos (muerte al nacer, deformidades o trastornos genéticos), pero incluso si la ingeniería genética resulta técnicamente exitosa, puede ocasionar daños psicosociales a los niños, que tal vez enfrenten el rechazo de sus pares por tener una apariencia extraña o simplemente ser “diferentes”.

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