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Genetic Engineering

Cognisant

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Does anyone know much about this?

I'm aware of rats and other small to medium sized animals being selectively bred in labs, various microbes being developed by exposure to increasingly harsh conditions, and plants being altered by way of grafting, how else is it done?

It interests me that with sufficient time and money it seems feasible to use the mechanisms already in nature to evolve an animal, plant, insect or microbe into something specific, especially considering how efficient biology can be, consider the power to weight ratio of human muscle or how we can do all the stuff we do on a measly 8700kg or less.

I'm particularly interested in the idea of creating a symbiote that can take DNA from several cells, cross reference it, and then use that amended DNA to correct cellular degeneration in its host. Bear in mind I am talking out of my ass here, but cellular degeneration does seem to be an issue of maintaining data integrity and that's something we're damn good at in computer science, so if we could apply that knowledge to biology perhaps we could slow aging a bit, maybe even eleminate it on a cellular level.
 

loveofreason

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You're wading bravely into a minefield of terminology here. Fascinating idea though - the principle of correcting data, applied to cellular biology.

I've only the most rudimentary 'knowledge' of the area, and might be inaccurate, but:

Venter created the first synthetic genome (though it was a copy of an already existing one) and succeeded in inserting it into another living bacterium: Synthia, and I think that might be the research direction you're thinking of.

Certainly the technology to synthesize a genome is there, but do we yet know enough to design something novel? Tantalising.


This seems distinctly different from transgenics (moving genes between unrelated species) - the usual subject of the term 'genetic engineering'.

What you seem to refer to in the OP is selective breeding - we're great at modifying organisms over generations of breeding for particular traits we value. The very many breeds of domesticated livestock and plants are testament to this. Though undoubtedly we also modified in response to cultural and environmental changes. We're domesticated hominids. If the same spirit is applied to creating novel genomes, there's really nothing preventing your idea becoming reality....

Except ethics committees. Except the application of the precautionary principle - though this has never stopped a dubious project where money is to be made. Except... gah. I have no problem with the idea of an engineered symbiote for the consciously engineered hominids we may become, but is wider society ready?

:kodama1:
 

Cognisant

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Except the application of the precautionary principle
Of course, otherwise it wouldn't be Mad Science would it?
 

Polaris

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I am no biochemist, but I think nano-biotechnological advances will eventually work out the chemical mechanisms of telomere-shortening, for example. Curiously, what happens every time a cell divides, the protective telomere sequence at the end of the DNA molecule will shorten. This is linked to ageing as shortened telomeres are correlated with older age. Telomerase is the enzyme that is able to add bases to the ends of telomeres and thus slow down shortening. The problem is non-specific targeting of telomerase activation could also increase the risk of cancer cell proliferation, so it is a double-edged sword. We would have to work out the chemical dynamics of telomere-shortening and why telomerase does not seem to keep up as the individual ages, or if there is an actual causal relationship between telomere-shortening and age. It is the chicken-egg paradox; do we age because telomeres shorten or do telomeres shorten because we age....or is there a relationship at all...plus we have to factor in all the other possible contributors to ageing such as oxidation damage, and glycation...and of course, chronological time...

Developing drugs that would target telomerase enhancement somehow would therefore be very complicated considering the risk of cancer cell proliferation. Nature's penchant for irony is never disappointing....

Telomerase
 

loveofreason

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I got all excited when the research broke, but telomerase still has more mysteries than answers.

What's great though is that Cog may slowly be coming round to suspect these old meat sacks might be useful data vehicles if only they can be engineered appropriately!

:p

(And I love the idea. A biological (genomic) transhumanism is in much closer reach than ...errr... alternatives, and a symbiot floating round our cells patching corrupted data back together - hey, who wouldn't want that?)

I'll be guinea pig.
 

Cognisant

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What's great though is that Cog may slowly be coming round to suspect these old meat sacks might be useful data vehicles if only they can be engineered appropriately!
Hogwash and slander.

:borg:
 

Polaris

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I got all excited when the research broke, but telomerase still has more mysteries than answers.
Yes.

What's great though is that Cog may slowly be coming round to suspect these old meat sacks might be useful data vehicles if only they can be engineered appropriately!
It was only a matter of time....:phear:

(And I love the idea. A biological (genomic) transhumanism is in much closer reach than ...errr... alternatives, and a symbiot floating round our cells patching corrupted data back together - hey, who wouldn't want that?)
I think it will be smarter to work with what we already have; to try to improve through subtle mimicking of biological responses....to somehow synthesise humans and nano-computers....rather than hooking up to some external cumbersome unit....we'll have the units inside us. We should have the options of removing them easily though....who knows if they wouldn't be smart enough to find some pathway to our consciousness....unless, of course, consciousness is already an actual part of our physiology. Now that is a freaky concept, but it makes totally sense to me.


I'll be guinea pig.
Hmmm, yes...I wouldn't mind :borg:
 

gilliatt

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Read the book, "The Book of Enki". Enki was a genetic engineer that genetically engineered man in a lab, true story. This was in the Sumerian clay tablets that explains how we humans came to be. Enki is our God, he made us not Enlil. We are worshiping the wrong God!!! That is amazing. No Enki did not make us from scratch, we were an 'upgrade'. We were a mix from Enki's people and the savage race.
 

Etheri

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The possibilities of eugenics are truly amazing, the limiting factor seems to be the ethics of the subject... I've not made up my mind and certainly do not want to stop science, but in the case of human experiments and eugenics we should be careful.

Except ethics committees. Except the application of the precautionary principle - though this has never stopped a dubious project where money is to be made. Except... gah. I have no problem with the idea of an engineered symbiote for the consciously engineered hominids we may become, but is wider society ready?
The nazi's essentially tried / enforced selective breeding in humans... Which seems to be a rather sore spot to a lot of people. (Perhaps for a decent reason)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebensborn
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_eugenics

The first program (Lebensborn), while obviously far from ethical isn't exactly the worst thing the nazi's did. While some parts were horrific, as far as my knowledge goes the start had some decent results and was basically a help to raising -elitist and selected- children and by their own mothers. As with most nazi programs the program got 'slightly' less ethical during the war.

The second program included sterilisation of disabeled people and criminals etc, which later evolved into the plain genocide everyone knows about. (I assume we're all aware not only jews were killed under the nazi regime)

I'm not certain how I feel about forceful sterilisation, it certainly limits onces freedom, but on the other hand people needing care 24/7 do put a strain on society, and are often unable to raise their own children themselves, while these children have rather high chances on having the same issues, and the limitation of our global population wouldn't be a bad thing. But who am I to judge?

As a last note, certain countries have enforceful chemical sterilisation / castration of rapists and other criminals today.

People ranting about genetically modified organisms are indeed very often uneducated, ranting hippies, but the manipulation of the human genome has a rather terrifying history. While it may be required and beneficial to our future, I don't think we can simply ignore ethics.
 

BigApplePi

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If a pet shop were properly financed, could we try a human brain into a pet? Why would this not be possible?:confused: It would make for a great companion if it could be.
 

Architect

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Genetics is a code, biology is determined by genetics, so therefore biology is an information science.

We're just at the beginning of being able to understand and manipulate this. Yes, telemeres, perhaps, but it is looking to be more complicated than that. At any rate the idea is all you "have" to do is to make it long enough until that technology is available, say until the 2040's.

In the meantime the capability of hacking into your genetic code is entirely within your grasp. Genes don't have enough information density to contain the complexity of you. For example, much of the genome is about neurons, but the complexity of your brain exceeds the genetic code by many orders of magnitude. Obviously the code just says how to make neurons, but it takes environmental pressure to create a brain. This is known as gene expression.

So, ways to hack your genes (aka gene expression)

  • Think interesting thoughts*. This determines the connectome structure of your brain.
  • Eat plants. Animal foods don't do this (maybe because we ARE animals), but plant phytochemicals have profound effects on gene expression.
  • Exercise. Again your genes just have a blueprint of your body, what you get is determined by the environmental pressure.
The idea that your genes determine your longevity is far from the truth.

* Not just intellectual thought, but love, sex, imagination, etc. All the stuff that makes us human.
 

Duxwing

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Genetics is a code, biology is determined by genetics, so therefore biology is an information science.
Perhaps geneaology and development? Ecology is much of biology, and it rests on geology and meteorology, not information science.

We're just at the beginning of being able to understand and manipulate this. Yes, telomeres, perhaps, but it is looking to be more complicated than that. At any rate the idea is all you "have" to do is to make it long enough until that technology is available, say until the 2040's.
Copy Architect actual, continuing existence operations on planet earth. Standing by for further orders, out.

:D

In the meantime the capability of hacking into your genetic code is entirely within your grasp. Genes don't have enough information density to contain the complexity of you. For example, much of the genome is about neurons, but the complexity of your brain exceeds the genetic code by many orders of magnitude. Obviously the code just says how to make neurons, but it takes environmental pressure to create a brain. This is known as gene expression.

So, ways to hack your genes (aka gene expression)

  • Think interesting thoughts*. This determines the connectome structure of your brain.
  • Eat plants. Animal foods don't do this (maybe because we ARE animals), but plant phytochemicals have profound effects on gene expression.
  • Exercise. Again your genes just have a blueprint of your body, what you get is determined by the environmental pressure.
Epigenetics is a huge field indeed! :)

The idea that your genes determine your longevity is far from the truth.
Well... in the absence of hacking, they set an upper bound.

-Duxwing
 

crippli

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I am also excited about the advances we make, and the dreams of what we can do.

Unfortunately, once it's done, it's going to be both mundane and boring.

Regardless, nature biology is very flawed. So improvements are certainly welcome.
 

Architect

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Copy Architect actual, continuing existence operations on planet earth. Standing by for further orders, out.
Battlestar Galactica +1

Well... in the absence of hacking, they set an upper bound.
Yeah the idea is that hacking should get you far enough to where we can rewrite the assembly.
 

Pyropyro

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Sometimes I wish we have Zerg biology (or Tyranids for our older gamer members). Heh, we eat stuff take the best traits, then we evolve and live indefinitely :)

As for real life, I think the problem is that our ethics can't catch up with our biotech. That's why GM is still a bit of a taboo even in research circles.
 

Agent Intellect

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Does anyone know much about this?

I'm aware of rats and other small to medium sized animals being selectively bred in labs, various microbes being developed by exposure to increasingly harsh conditions, and plants being altered by way of grafting, how else is it done?
In my lab, we create primers* and use overlap extension PCR** to insert new/changed bases into DNA in order to create mutants.


* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primer_%28molecular_biology%29
** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overlap_extension_polymerase_chain_reaction


Read the book, "The Book of Enki". Enki was a genetic engineer that genetically engineered man in a lab, true story. This was in the Sumerian clay tablets that explains how we humans came to be. Enki is our God, he made us not Enlil. We are worshiping the wrong God!!! That is amazing. No Enki did not make us from scratch, we were an 'upgrade'. We were a mix from Enki's people and the savage race.
Get the short (and more entertaining) version and just read Amazon.com: Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra Book) (9780553380958): Neal Stephenson: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5192EnTxNQL.@@AMEPARAM@@5192EnTxNQL.
 

Pyropyro

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In my lab, we create primers* and use overlap extension PCR** to insert new/changed bases into DNA in order to create mutants.
Cool! A pity that I wasn't able to have much fun with the PCR in my college years. I focused on Bioinformatics instead.
 
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