It has been announced that nine sheep born this past October at Uruguay’s Institute of Animal Reproduction have been developing normally and living contentedly. The sheep were genetically engineered to contain a gene from a jellyfish which spurs the production of green fluorescent protein, a modification which will no doubt soon be a common one for designer house pets:
Tag Archives | Genetics
Could a message have been inserted into our genetics billions of years ago, as the most durable method of communicating with intelligent life eons later? Discovery News ponders:
Could our genes have an intelligently designed “manufacturer’s stamp” inside them, written eons ago elsewhere in our galaxy?
Vladimir I. shCherbak of al-Farabi Kazakh National University of Kazakhstan, and Maxim A. Makukov of the Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute, hypothesize that an intelligent signal embedded in our genetic code would what they call “biological SETI.”
In the journal Icarus, they assert: “Once fixed, the code might stay unchanged over cosmological timescales. Therefore it represents an exceptionally reliable storage for an intelligent signature.” To pass the designer label test, any patterns in the genetic code must be highly statistically significant and possess intelligent-like features that are inconsistent with any natural know process.
They go on to argue that their detailed analysis of the human genome displays a thorough precision-type orderliness in the mapping between DNA’s nucleotides and amino acids.
The Sydney Morning Herald on evolutionary scientists’ assertion that biological males as we know them are on the way out, due to the inherent flawed nature of the Y chromosome:
The poorly designed Y chromosome that makes men is degrading rapidly and will disappear, even if humans are still around.
Evolutionary geneticist Jenny Graves says that while the process is likely to happen within the next five million years, it could have begun in some isolated groups. Professor Groves, who first made the prediction some years ago, gave a public lecture on the subject for the Australian Academy of Science.
If humans don’t become extinct, new sex-determining genes and chromosomes will evolve, maybe leading to the evolution of new hominid species. “As long as something came along in its stead, we would not even suspect without checking the chromosomes,” she said on Tuesday. This had happened in the Japanese spiny rat, which had survived the loss of its Y.
You’ve been leaving yourself everywhere. For her ongoing project Stranger Visions, Heather Dewey-Hagborg culls discarded DNA (in the form of cigarette butts, chewed gum, et cetera) from the New York sidewalk and then uses a 3D printer to create sculpture portraits based on the genetic information. A reminder that we may soon need to guard our DNA tightly?
Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material collected in public places. Working with the traces strangers unwittingly leave behind, Dewey-Hagborg calls attention to the impulse toward genetic determinism and the potential for a culture of genetic surveillance.
Does your arrest allow the government to access your genetic information? Conservatives, and the Obama administration, say yes. Via CNN:
The U.S. Supreme Court offered a surprising amount of concern about states laws allowing police to collect a DNA sample of anyone arrested — but not yet convicted — of serious crimes. A ruling will be issued within a few months, and could have wide-reaching implications in the rapidly evolving technology surrounding criminal procedure.
Privacy rights groups [say] the state’s “trust us” promise not to abuse the technology does not ease their concerns that someone’s biological makeup could soon be applied for a variety of non-criminal purposes.
“There is something inherently dangerous about DNA collection that is not the same as fingerprinting,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “How far do we let the state go each time it has some form of custody over you in schools, in workplaces, wherever else the state has control over your person?”
And civil liberties groups worry inadequate DNA testing by overwhelmed lab technicians can lead to errors, such as the one that sent Dwayne Jackson to prison for armed robbery.
Via Edge.org, NYU evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller on how the biggest eugenics push in history is just unfolding, which he feels will dramatically shape the future:
China has been running the world’s largest and most successful eugenics program for more than thirty years, driving China’s ever-faster rise as the global superpower. When I learned about Chinese eugenics this summer, I was astonished that its population policies had received so little attention. China makes no secret of its eugenic ambitions, in either its cultural history or its government policies.
The BGI-Shenzhen Cognitive Genomics Project is currently doing whole-genome sequencing of 1,000 very-high-IQ people around the world, hunting for sets of sets of IQ-predicting alleles. I know because I recently contributed my DNA to the project, not fully understanding the implications. These IQ gene-sets will be found eventually—but will probably be used mostly in China, for China.
Potentially, the results would allow all Chinese couples to maximize the intelligence of their offspring by selecting among their own fertilized eggs for the one or two that include the highest likelihood of the highest intelligence.
Via the Daily Beast, Michael Thomsen on the new model of scientific progress:
In a time of dramatically worsening social conditions in the richest country in the world, there is something perverse about chasing scientific advancement that only the tiniest percentage of people will have access to, driven by the optimism of impossible promises.
It’s possible to view scientific advancement not as a marker of human progress but as a separatist illusion used to justify the accumulation of wealth by the few, building new speculative societies with iPhones, gene therapy, and regenerative medicine, while everyone else festers in shanty towns and militarized city slums. Does it matter if there is a cure for cancer but no one will share it with you?
In the thrilling early years of the Human Genome Project, scientists flew all over the world to study the genes of as many different races and ethnic groups as possible.
If certain mutations or abnormalities are blamed for Lanza’s actions, what will we do with other individuals who possess them? The Christian Post reports on a possible preview of witch hunting in the 21st century:
An “Adam Lanza DNA study” has been given the go ahead to see if there is anything inside his genetic makeup that could have given any indication of the horrific acts he was capable of ahead of time. The study, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is expected to delve into Lanza’s DNA in the hope of finding any kind of genetic abnormalities or mutations in his DNA.
The study has been commissioned by Connecticut Medical Examiner, H. Wayne Carver, who has reached out to geneticists at the University of Connecticut to carry out the study. It is expected that the geneticists will analyze his entire genome in huge detail to try and find any mutations.
One wonders, in the near future, will employees, clergy, teachers, and politicians catering to conservative Christians undergo genetic testing to prove that they don’t possess “gay genes”? Dystopianism via the Advocate:
As testing organizations, particularly 23andMe, the largest and most popular DNA analysis service, grow their databases, consumers are learning many more things about their lives, including — soon — if there’s a genetic root to their sexual orientation.
23andMe initiated its sexual orientation project about six months ago, and researchers are hoping that tens of thousands of LGBT folks take the genetic test and fill out the accompanying survey — the information from which allows 23andMe to see patterns among, for example, gay men or transgender women. Several thousand people have participated in the survey so far, though few identify as transgender. As soon as the company has a big enough sample, it plans to make those results public, regardless of where they lead.
In the future, synthetic viruses will be unleashed which spread quickly, producing no symptoms — until they reach a targeted person whose DNA sequence unlocks the virus’s lethal abilities. The Atlantic reveals that preparations are already underway for this coming era of biological assassination:
The U.S. government is surreptitiously collecting the DNA of world leaders, and is reportedly protecting that of Barack Obama. Decoded, these genetic blueprints could provide compromising information. In the not-too-distant future, they may provide something more as well—the basis for the creation of personalized bioweapons that could take down a president and leave no trace.
DNA of world leaders is already a subject of intrigue. In the President’s Secret Service, Navy stewards gather bedsheets, drinking glasses, and other objects the president has touched—they are later sanitized or destroyed—in an effort to keep would‑be malefactors from obtaining his genetic material. Personalized bioweapons are a subtler and less catastrophic threat than accidental plagues or WMDs.