KiriKiri Member
edited October 2013 in Kiri Callaghan
If you haven't seen it yet, watch it here!

What excites you about these possibilities, what are your reservations--what fictions use transgenic therapies in ways you hope to see or pray we never do?

Personally I'm mostly excited about the steps we're taking right now to curing not just genetic diseases but the steps they've made towards beating back various kinds of cancers. There's so much out there right now that this could end up being a solution to--at least that's what the optimist in me hopes. 

Mind you a  lot of these experiments definitely heft a great deal of responsibility on us as a species--especially if the development continues as well as it has--but the idea that we're able to give kids born with a disease they're too young to even fully understand? That's awesome. That gives me hope even when I'm at my most frustrated with humanity and what we do to each other. 


  • I like the concept, but perhaps not adding in the glow in the dark bit. There has to be a better way to do that.
  • I'm going to sound like a bit of a dick but I have a lot of reservations on the use of genetic engineering on the human body. Of course, the use of gene therapy is probably the most effective way on treating genetic diseases. However, the modifying human embryos to reflect desired traits is a pretty gray area. My biggest issue would be on deciding what is desired and what isn't in a human being. It's a little horrifying to think that someone other than myself decided who I would be before I could even get a chance to.
  • Doesn't make you sound like a dick at all. The idea of your parents choosing what you'd look like or any trait about you is totally unnerving and uncomfortable. I know for one I would be a much different person had my parents been able to decide things about me pre-birth. 

    I'm hoping gene therapy and transgenic studies continue to fight towards eliminating disease--cancer, immunodeficiencies--that kind of thing. 
  • @Kiri Definitely, the use of gene therapy has huge potential for disease prevention and maybe even disease eradication. In any case, dealing with the ethics and morality of gene manipulation would probably be more of a societal issue rather than a purely scientific one in any case.
  • Hi Kiri, 

    I have just watched your vlog and really enjoyed your enthusiasm for the field of genetics and science in general. I thought it was a really good synopsis of the current thinking, There are a couple of things I would like to address if I may.   

    Trans-genes cannot transfer naturally between species. The most common definition of a species states 'two naturally occurring populations which cannot, through natural means, interbreed'. Saying that, we think that nearly 8% of our DNA is due to infections by retro-viruses throughout our evolutionary history. But we didn't mate with viruses.

    Cancer is not a virus it is a type of mutation within the cell. The mistake is an easy one to make, as using a 'retro-virus' in order to treat cancer suggests the big C is a virus itself. Retro-viruses are used because they have evolved naturally to do exactly what we need in order to insert a strand of DNA (via RNA) into a genome at a specified point. Which is why we are 8% retro-virus.

    To tak197, the jellyfish gene is used because its phenotype easily observed without having to carry out any invasive procedures on the organism to determine the success of the experiment and is completely harmless to (in this case) the rabbits. 

    Gene therapy cannot currently cure genetic diseases. To cure a genetic disease you would need to target all the cells in the body (>50 trillion on average per person) or target the desired cells (in the millions to billions) which is beyond the ability of science at the moment. But one day...

    Finally srancamon, all the scientists I work with would agree with you regarding genetic engineering on humans and what we are doing is trying to cure diseases not create designer babies. Even if somebody wanted to, it's far too complex to do. One reason is because of pleiotropy.  

    Pleiotropy is the mechanism, in genetics, where one gene influences one or more often unrelated genes. While we have mapped the human genome, we are still unravelling what many of the genes do (and there are more than 20,000 genes in our genome). When that is completed we can start on how they affect each other. That's 20,000 genes which may or may not (genes switch on and off) at any point in the life cycle of an person affect any of the other 20,000 genes.  
  • OakspoorOakspoor Member, Moderator
    I understand the potential of Transgenics to help humanity, but discussions of it always remind me of Frank Herbert's novel The White Plague.
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  • Daniel_WallaceDaniel_Wallace Member, Moderator
    I lost my belief in transgenics when I had to find out that the picture of the tobacco plants that glowed in the dark were taken with an exposure time of several hours... I wanted to glow in the dark, dammit! ;-)
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  • CapnHowdy64CapnHowdy64 Member
    edited October 2013 PM
    I’m a little late to this party, but I finally figured out how I want to say this.  I’m somewhat divide on issues like transgenetics.  

    I have a little cousin who has Autism, and I know right now Autism is not linked to genetics, but its parallel to this discussion so here me out. As I said my little cousin is autistic, rather high function but still autistic. While I feel like my family has dealt with this issue very well, it still is a strain at times. It is even more of a strain on this child as you can imagine and is an endless amount of frustration on him and his parents.
    All that being said, I love the crap out of this kid.  I’m not a big kid person, but there is something different about him. It is not just I; he gets attention everywhere he goes.  People just seem attracted to him. I can’t quite explain why.

    So my problem is, if the doctor had said, “Hey, this child will have Autism but we can fix that before he’s born, should we do it?” My answer would have been unequivocally yes.  Now I look at my cousin and wonder how different he would be if he did not have autism. Would he still have that same spark?  Obviously I would want what is best for him, and I would not want anyone to have to deal with what he deals with.
    Now take this conversation to transgenetics, and talk of changing things like hair and eye color. What kind of affect could that have on the kid’s personality? I’m not a religious man by any definition, but I do believe we are more then just the sum of parts.  Personally, I don’t know if I ever really want this choice.
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