martes, 1 de junio de 2010

"Intelligent Design. That´s one goal of synthetic biology"

Olivia Judson, of The New York times believes that the recent creation of the genome of a creature that no longer exists anywhere on the Earth is the first baby step to new life-forms. Supposedly, we will sit around the company table and brainstorm what kind of lifeform we would like to design.

Examples f how we have already improved on gene sequences iclude the green flourescent protein naturally expressed in jellies. This gene has been altered so as to flouresce more brightly, and is used extensively to tag proteins in cell biology.

The first genome to be fully constructed was poliovirus 8 years ago. Now we can sequence bacteria and have created new bacteria that do not exist in nature. However, designing a life form on our own is still very much impossible, because biological systems are too complex and always have unpredictable components that, when attempting to copy them will behave in unexpected ways. We can make proteins, but we cannot be sure how this new protein will fold and how it will interact with other proteins. A good metaphor is that we can make all the parts, but still need to use an existing factory to build them. We also cannot add all of the machinery to a vacant cytoplasm and expect it to start building proteins.

This only deals with the mechanics of the organism. What about trying to wire the circuitry? We can´t even begin to understand side affects of chemical levels on the nervous system. The chances of creating something that doesn´t have devastating gliches is very small. We have begun to build molecules that can store information just like DNA, but they are read differently by the machinery of the cell. This allows us to write our own code, but we still have no idea how it will be expressed.

With these psuedo-DNA structures man may create a "second nature" with animals that cannot interact with the animals of the wild instantly, instead of taking thousands of years. Supposedly, the "bannisters" of the DNA strand are far more important than previously thought and are essential for any information-storing molecule.

The article concludes by saying that there are many uses for designer organisms, and they may be very dangerous or detrimental to man, but they will also help us better understand nature as we know it.

Japan will make Pókemon before anybody knows what happened,


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