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Title: From genome to epigenome : Ethical implications of epigenetic research
Authors: Tanti, Robert
Keywords: Epigenetics
Reproductive technology
Embryonic stem cells
Multipotent stem cells
Issue Date: 2011
Citation: Tanti, R. (2011). From genome to epigenome : Ethical implications of epigenetic research (Master’s dissertation).
Abstract: Epigenetics has become one of the most exciting areas of research of post-genomic biology. It is attracting the interest of researchers worldwide and so much effort is being put into this field that new discoveries and developments are being made at breakneck speed. Although a large amount of literature on the ethics of genetic research has been published in the past twenty years, there is a gap in the literature on the ethical concerns surrounding the field of epigenetics. The aim of this work was thus to raise awareness on the ethical concerns surrounding this emerging science. Epigenetics has shed light on the cause of many complex medical conditions and revealed how past and future generations may be linked in ways we never imagined. Our lives, the air we breathe, what we eat and drink, the medicines we take, the things we do and experience, can work their way into the germline and resonate down the ages by affecting our children and grandchildren despite the fact that they never experienced these things themselves. On the other hand, it has also offered us new avenues of scientific exploration for the development of cures for several pathologies. One such promising therapeutic alternative involves the use of iPS cells, created through the epigenetic reprogramming of somatic cells back to a pluripotent state. Epigenetics also highlights the fact that inequalities in living and working conditions result in differential susceptibility to epigenetic conditions. Inequitable access to health care exacerbates such conditions because individuals who are most likely to need epigenetic therapies are often the least able to afford them. Like any new scientific discovery, epigenetic research also has the potential tor misuse especially when it comes to stern cell research or technologies which generate highly sensitive medical information that could lead to stigmatization or discrimination. Most traditional bioethical principles that apply to genetic and other forms of clinical research apply to epigenetics as well. However, epigenetics is also challenging society with new dilemmas of responsibility towards the environment as well as for the preservation of the integrity of the epigenome for our own benefit and for that of generations yet to come. For these reasons it is imperative that new and strong bioethical and legal frameworks that govern epigenetic research are established without any further delay, in order for society to be able to adequately handle the breakthroughs made by this new science. One also has to recognise the need for effective educational strategies which could improve public understanding of epigenetic research and participation in policy making, and which could assist individuals, families, employers, insurers or governments in their decisions.
Description: M.A.BIOETHICS
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacThe - 2011

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