Jump to content
House Price Crash Forum

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

LC1

Dna Editing

Recommended Posts

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/exclusive-jawdropping-breakthrough-hailed-as-landmark-in-fight-against-hereditary-diseases-as-crispr-technique-heralds-genetic-revolution-8925295.html

So, with this new Crispr technique, editing DNA is now apparently child's play. So how long till we have a superior race of 7' tall Aryan overlords then? Only a matter of time, surely?

:ph34r:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/exclusive-jawdropping-breakthrough-hailed-as-landmark-in-fight-against-hereditary-diseases-as-crispr-technique-heralds-genetic-revolution-8925295.html

So, with this new Crispr technique, editing DNA is now apparently child's play. So how long till we have a superior race of 7' tall Aryan overlords then? Only a matter of time, surely?

:ph34r:

The landmark development means it is now possible to make the most accurate and detailed alterations to any specific position on the DNA of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes without introducing unintended mutations or flaws, scientists said.

:lol:

The headline of that article reminds me of a piece in the Guardian a few years back...

Guardian: The failure of the genome

If inherited genes are not to blame for our most common illnesses, how can we find out what is?

Since the human genome was sequenced, over 10 years ago, hardly a week has gone by without some new genetic "breakthrough" being reported. Last week five new "genes for Alzheimer's disease" generated sometimes front-page coverage across the globe. But take a closer look and the reality is very different.

Among all the genetic findings for common illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer and mental illnesses, only a handful are of genuine significance for human health. Faulty genes rarely cause, or even mildly predispose us, to disease, and as a consequence the science of human genetics is in deep crisis...

The failure to find meaningful inherited genetic predispositions is likely to become the most profound crisis that science has faced. Not only has the most expensive scientific project ever conceived failed to reach a goal it assured the world it would achieve, but there is also the ticklish problem of why the headlines have been so consistently discrepant with reality. As the failures to find significant genes have accumulated, geneticists have remained silent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm amazed by how much hype this is generating at the moment.

For a start, it has been possible to introduce new DNA sequence at a specific spot in the genome since Mario Capecchi did it with mice in the 1980s, work which was later rewarded with a Nobel prize.

Crispr makes this process a bit more (but still not very) efficient by using an enzyme to cut the DNA at the point where you want the new DNA to be inserted rather than relying on a random break occuring as Capecchi did.

But wait! We already have enzymes which can cut DNA site-specifically: zinc finger nucleases (first developed by Srinivasan Chandrasegaran in the mid 1990s) and TALE nucleases which have been around for about 3 years.

The advantage of Crispr is that you don't need to engineer a new protein every time you want to cut a different spot in the DNA, so it's a bit easier to work with. The disadvantage is that the specificity of Crispr is quite poor compared to a good ZFN/TALEN, so you get lots of cuts elsewhere in the genome.

Crispr is a small addition to the tools that biologists are already working with, it's not a qualitative leap.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Among all the genetic findings for common illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer and mental illnesses, only a handful are of genuine significance for human health. Faulty genes rarely cause, or even mildly predispose us, to disease, and as a consequence the science of human genetics is in deep crisis...

Hmm, suspicious types might conclude that since we now know that very few diseases have a genetic cause, that other motivations might be driving the technology....

If you could opt for an embryo that would grow to be stronger, more intelligent and better looking than Mother Nature might provide, would you recoil at the horror of designing out Her 'flaws', or would you accept that this is where genetic science has been leading all along, for the betterment of humankind?!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Crispr is a small addition to the tools that biologists are already working with, it's not a qualitative leap.

Interesting, thanks. It's a big problem, relying on the popular press for your scientific knowledge :D

So, nothing to see here folks, move along? Such a shame, I like a good transhuman/bioethics debate...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

:lol:

The headline of that article reminds me of a piece in the Guardian a few years back...

Guardian: The failure of the genome

Problem is, any gene that is strongly linked to a condition that causes problems before the age of 40 will be pretty quickly eliminated by evolution (unless it's something like sickle cell anemia where there is counter-selective pressure from Malaria). Basically, Nature has already taken most of the low-hanging fruit, as it were. We are left with the fun 'If you have this set of variants plus this other set of variants then your chances of getting disease X increase by 50%' cases. Bit hard to sort out..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting, thanks. It's a big problem, relying on the popular press for your scientific knowledge :D

So, nothing to see here folks, move along? Such a shame, I like a good transhuman/bioethics debate...

I wouldn't say "nothing to see here folks" as the technology of genetic manipulation is advancing, but it's advancing slowly and is probably still a long way from producing something that will change the way we all live.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm, suspicious types might conclude that since we now know that very few diseases have a genetic cause, that other motivations might be driving the technology....

If you could opt for an embryo that would grow to be stronger, more intelligent and better looking than Mother Nature might provide, would you recoil at the horror of designing out Her 'flaws', or would you accept that this is where genetic science has been leading all along, for the betterment of humankind?!

It would be interesting to do a full chromosome duplication, so we had 4 copies of every gene instead of 2.

In theory this would make you far more resistant to genetic damage and hence cancer and perhaps other diseases of ageing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Problem is, any gene that is strongly linked to a condition that causes problems before the age of 40 will be pretty quickly eliminated by evolution

True, but most of the burden of disease is now in older people where natural selection has not been able to weed out the problems.

Also, the newspaper science idea that genes "cause" disease is a bit cart-before-horse anyway. New genes spread through populations when there is a biological problem that they provide a technical solution to. It is probably true that many diseases of old age don't really have a gene that causes them - these diseases arise when the existing human genetic program does not have a technical fix for whatever has gone wrong. What we may need are new genes that fix these problems.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would be interesting to do a full chromosome duplication, so we had 4 copies of every gene instead of 2.

In theory this would make you far more resistant to genetic damage and hence cancer and perhaps other diseases of ageing.

I'm sure this experiment takes place in wombs across the planet every day, and since there doesn't seem to be anybody walking around with this genotype the result is probably a nonviable foetus which the mother's body rejects.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you could opt for an embryo that would grow to be stronger, more intelligent and better looking than Mother Nature might provide, would you recoil at the horror of designing out Her 'flaws', or would you accept that this is where genetic science has been leading all along, for the betterment of humankind?!

My suspicion is that living things share characteristics with artificially designed systems and represent a 'best-fit' compromise of multiple, interrelated variables/ parameters.

P1ss around with one variable and there's a good chance some of the others will be knocked out of kilter.

edit: I was going to pop in a Blade Runner clip but it's a bit too skull-squashy for a daytime work-day. The bit in the film where someone says 'The tea light that burns twice as bright burns half as long', or something like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I dimly remember that when the human genome project was being promoted there was talk that there were going to be something like 100,000 genes in the genome. Presumably partly on account of the relative complexity of human physiology and behaviour

I believe the final score came in at something more like 24,000 genes; less than the number present in what appear to be much less complicated organisms.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The bit in the film where someone says 'The tea light that burns twice as bright burns half as long', or something like that.

Great film.

It does get a bit sci-fi, inevitably. And I intuitively suspect that you're correct in that the law of unintended consequences would most likely apply, regardless of how simple it might appear to scientists to swap genes across species etc.

Thing is, I can't help thinking that there will always be people who want to push this tech as far as it will go, whether international laws of bioethics permit their actions or not, and that we could well have genetically modified people walking around in the not-so-distant future. And once the first rogue scientist has paved the way, it's a slippery slope in that nobody wants to be the last to the party, lest other nations are half-way towards creating an army of super soldiers before you've even got your proverbial lab coat on...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sure this experiment takes place in wombs across the planet every day, and since there doesn't seem to be anybody walking around with this genotype the result is probably a nonviable foetus which the mother's body rejects.

Yes. Might take a bit of engineering.. good research project for the 2100s I suspect. Although many of our crops have already had this done, so it's clearly possible in some species.

As for redesigning the whole genome/protenome to stop senescence without any undesirable side-effects. Could be a tad tricky..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think everyone knows the family that has been affected in some way by an affliction.

I know a guy who has a lot of relatives who all seem to die of heart attacks.

I refuse to believe there is not a strong genetic component in disease. The problem is teasing out this component from the data and the environmental factors as well. The genome itself is extremely complicated, without adding on the variation in lifestyles people adopt.

Over time more people will get sequenced, more sequences will correlate to particular disease types and more data will become available to identify disease risks. At the moment sequencing has only just become cheap enough to make this possible.

To me, the claims of genetic breakthroughs are at the moment premature, except in the case of very simple ones, like brca1.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thing is, I can't help thinking that there will always be people who want to push this tech as far as it will go, whether international laws of bioethics permit their actions or not, and that we could well have genetically modified people walking around in the not-so-distant future. And once the first rogue scientist has paved the way, it's a slippery slope in that nobody wants to be the last to the party, lest other nations are half-way towards creating an army of super soldiers before you've even got your proverbial lab coat on...

I've no doubt that there are such people. However, unless they profoundly understand the mechanisms they are tinkering with there'll always be the possibility that natural regulatory mechanisms will kick back and restore some form of equilibrium that's not in accord with their intentions.

Fun as dreaming that 'we' will one day be able to perfect(?) humanity, create artificial consciousness, discover limitless energy and conquer the vast expanses of lethal interstellar space is, my suspicion is that all this stuff is way, way off. We are what we are, with all our apparent imperfections and mortality, and we're stuck on this (rather pleasant) lump of rock indefinitely afaic.

There's not necessarily any harm in poking around trying to figure out how stuff works impo. A healthy sense of humility might help avoid some serious f*** ups though. Lines like 'The landmark development means it is now possible to make the most accurate and detailed alterations to any specific position on the DNA of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes without introducing unintended mutations or flaws' don't leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling in that regard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lines like 'The landmark development means it is now possible to make the most accurate and detailed alterations to any specific position on the DNA of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes without introducing unintended mutations or flaws' don't leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling in that regard.

In fairness, that line was written by a journalist and not a research scientist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In fairness, that line was written by a journalist and not a research scientist.

That's always the problem with 'popularised' accounts.

Then there's the intentional hype element associated with privately-funded research.

I can, however, think of examples of research scientists in the not too distant past who were genuinely out of their gourds*. No doubt a tiny minority but how few would it take to really stuff something major up?

* the first example that comes to mind, not necessarily the best, would be the loons behind the high-altitude nuclear testing in the 1960s

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can, however, think of examples of research scientists in the not too distant past who were genuinely out of their gourds*. No doubt a tiny minority but how few would it take to really stuff something major up?

Depends what you mean by "something major". There are probably hundreds of thousands of scientists in the world who could quite easily make genetically modified human babies: spunk into a cup, mix it with a viral vector carrying whichever gene you want to introduce, keep it warm and take it to a sperm bank. Obviously this would be completely illegal and unethical, and basically an unusual form of child abuse. However, as bad as this would be, it probably wouldn't affect that many people. Infectious diseases are where the real danger lies. I have no idea how many people it would take to make a new one, it isn't my area of expertise.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Depends what you mean by "something major". There are probably hundreds of thousands of scientists in the world who could quite easily make genetically modified human babies: spunk into a cup, mix it with a viral vector carrying whichever gene you want to introduce, keep it warm and take it to a sperm bank. Obviously this would be completely illegal and unethical, and basically an unusual form of child abuse. However, as bad as this would be, it probably wouldn't affect that many people. Infectious diseases are where the real danger lies. I have no idea how many people it would take to make a new one, it isn't my area of expertise.

Weapons development and eugenics, or whatever it is called today, strike me as being two areas where science has historically been taken down dubious paths with potentially catastrophic consequences. If someone convinces themself that the future of the world or humanity is at stake, day to day ethics can get chucked out of the window.

There's a page on wikipedia that lists a whole bunch of alleged unethical human experiments carried out in the US. Some are contested, some have been acknowledged...

wiki: Unethical human experimentation in the United States

I'm not trying to construct any kind of argument that science is intrinsically bad. However, I wouldn't try to construct an argument that science is intrinsically incorruptible either.

So, nothing to see here folks, move along? Such a shame, I like a good transhuman/bioethics debate...

Happy now? ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest eight

edit: I was going to pop in a Blade Runner clip but it's a bit too skull-squashy for a daytime work-day. The bit in the film where someone says 'The tea light that burns twice as bright burns half as long', or something like that.

Have this instead.

Of course the problem with human mutation is it just takes us ages to be born, live and die. Who fancies waiting 70+ years to see if their experiment worked?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Happy now? ;)

Haha! Yes, actually. Thanks.

Weapons development and eugenics, or whatever it is called today, strike me as being two areas where science has historically been taken down dubious paths with potentially catastrophic consequences.

I agree, which is sort of what prompted the OP. It's been on my mind for many years that we would eventually see a development that would open the floodgate, not because the ethical views of society at large would have changed significantly, but because the tech had now reached the point at which this stuff was 'easy', and so it wasn't only in a handful of highly regulated labs where this stuff could go on, but that anyone with a half decent chunk of money/power could decide that, f*** it, they're just gonna have a bash at this. Bodies that age more slowly, or that are 30% stronger, or brains that have 50% more neural pathways, etc etc*

I agree that ethical codes might not worth the paper they are written on once this reaches a point of potentiality where the bioweapon/eugenics issue can no longer be ignored (ie, we'd better do it before someone else does).

(*apologies if any of this betrays a lack of basic science knowledge!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • The Prime Minister stated that there were three Brexit options available to the UK:   203 members have voted

    1. 1. Which of the Prime Minister's options would you choose?


      • Leave with the negotiated deal
      • Remain
      • Leave with no deal

    Please sign in or register to vote in this poll. View topic


×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.