Sam GhandchiGMO: A Solution for Healthcare Dilemma

Sam Ghandchi


Persian Version  متن فارسی


Healthcare costs are skyrocketing in the world and various approaches to the problem have yielded very little results. What is fundamentally at the basis of modern healthcare dilemma?

Historically, humans lived in the natural world like other species, and natural selection meant survival of the fittest. In other words, if an individual member of a species was not perfectly fit, it would die and most others that survived would live to the maximum age that the species could live unless an accident like a tree falling on their head happened.

With the development of medicine, we saw some people who never used any medical help in their life and lived to the maximum age of the species, while others needed constant medical attention in order to survive. But with the advancement of medicine, the second case has increased more and more which is the main reason for higher healthcare costs.

Infant mortality represents the first so-called "screening" of the new generation of species by natural selection. One major milestone in modern medicine was the decline in infant mortality. Changes such as these have called for advancing medical methods to treat different diseases and medical conditions.

Let's say that someone is born with rheumatoid arthritis. This means the genes conferring rheumatoid arthritis have been passed down from parent to child. If the genes had been screened before birth, for example through in vitro fertilization coupled with screening methods, then the individual would not have been born with those genes. Otherwise, if by gene therapy the genes were corrected after birth, the solution would be a genetically modified organism (GMO), meaning a modified gene solution to the problem, with the organism in this case being a human.

It is true that some genetic defects may not have been inherited and would be the result of some mutations later in life, such as for many cases of cancer. In addition, some diseases are not viewed as genetic but rather as environmental. Regardless, a GMO solution can work to correct these conditions as well, through correction of somatic mutations in the first case and genetic modification to resist environmental conditions or offset genetic pre-dispositions in the latter case.

If one thinks in vitro fertilization and screening are unnatural, wrong, not based on natural selection, and only OK to use such a solution for infertile couples, then one could also respond that other conditions should be left to natural selection as well, such as how infant mortality was viewed in the middle ages. Traditional medicine "messes up" with nature as much as GMO solutions do. Furthermore, side effects are an issue in both cases and should be checked and resolved, rather than looked at as a reason to drop GMO methods.

GMOs have been used in agriculture for some time now and the luddites against biotechnology vehemently oppose such methods, whereas these are the ways to achieve accelerated returns in agriculture and also the same way we need to seek solutions to the health care impasse (1).

With the developments of genetics it is time to support the research into GMO solutions in medicine, specifically in vitro fertilization and screening before birth and gene therapy later in life. Translational research can focus on mouse and cell models to reach clinical trials on humans as quickly as possible.

Avoiding disease the same way a group of centenarians live all their life without going to doctor is the best way to solve the healthcare dilemma. In such a condition, health insurance would only be needed for accidents when one suffers injury because of a car accident or a tree falling on one’s head. Genomics-based studies that identify ‘longevity’ genes would further benefit GMO solutions toward increasing life expectancy and contributing to radical life extension in the near future.


Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher


September 10, 2012