Cut, Paste to create, & redefine life forms – Genetic Engineering

I have tried to do a commentary from a set of scientific documentaries I saw on Netflix, and other readings from Books on science.

I am equally interested in the discoveries of the micro world, like reading about the experiments to efforts, constructions, and eventually to crash atoms at high speeds to find smaller particles of matter, until the fundamental particle the that “Boson’ particle, and may be an even smaller particle called the “God’s Particle”. The most fundamental particles of matter, and Energy.

On the other hand the research and advances that have happened in the field of Genomes is also exciting to track.

I now understand that in 1995, it was discovered how the DNA molecule looks like. Details and Secret of life itself, as some believed.

At Cambridge, Massachussetes a new technique to modify and Correct mistakes in the genes was getting a lot of attention, and scrutiny.

How the code makes people?.

Given the Genome, It is said that it takes each piece of A4 paper printed both sides and has 6400 letters, each page. And it would take One million such pages to print out the entire genome sequence of a Human being.

A genome is definition of a DNA that consists of a sequence of letters of A,G,C,T.

President Bill Clinton said when this was discovery happened in early 2000s: We are learning the language in which God created Life!

Even, One letter change in the 6.4 billion bases of the AGCT sequence can cause a serious disease. How it is broken in case of people with diseases

The very First Human Genome sequencing was in the year 2000. Early 2000’s was a catalytic event, when the when the first draft sequence of the human genome was decoded. is opened up new possibilities for to create designer pants, and designer Human beings. The Moral and Philosophical question was, Why are we here and what is our “purpose’?

This had the potential to intervene in “Evolution” itself. Evolution made new species happen, but also happen to leave it die for the next evolution was to happen.

The genetic coding ability also gave us a good insight into the Genetic modifications, as evolution has progressed for thousands of years. Evolution always called for what would be better, but did not solve the sufferings of the current species.

It gave a tremendous insight into all the Genetic changes that happened through times, evolutionary change of life.

Evolution is about making things better, and has not considered about mitigation of suffering.

We can intervene in the process of life. The question is should we, and who gets to decide it?

To what extent we should defy evolution, in service to our morality. Edit genetic mistakes correct diseases. is still okay, and moralistic.

A molecule that can change one of the 3 billion letters of DNA. That can cause serious illnesses.

Stepping back in time a bit, here is an interesting story from the early times of genetic modification:

A dog breeder who was not a scientist and did not have access to sophisticated lab, tried genetic modification by introducing a light emitting, chemically luminiscent bacteria to breed a new dog that would Glow! So, people would believe that genetic Re-engineering was possible. That was the level of understanding an belief amongst community that genetic modification is possible.

Natural selection and free will, are concepts were now shaken.

A frozen Protein that can be used for Genome editing can alter the DNA in any cell in any organism, including Animal and Plant cells, including human beings.

We are now changing the DNA, the fundamental code of life. The question is should we?CRISPR-CAS9, a technique developed at University of California in Berkeley, provided a simple technique to accomplish Gene-editing, a “molecular scalpel”. Cutting and pasting a part of the DNA sequence. Genetic predispositions that can lead to diseases can be corrected.

The CRISPR technique has made genetic editing similar to a word processor, cut, paste, copy, missing genetic sub-strands.

The new genetic Engineering skills can grow Tissues, regrow organs, experiment to grow an extra limb in an insect, inspired by how zebra fish cuts its own heart with its sharp fin, and has the ability to quickly regrow its heart!

Target a Neuron to grow brain cells. Fix serious dysfunctions like Sickle cell Aneamia, Create cartelege, and cure or prevent Arthritis in Humans.

Potentially can design humans to be better, smarter, faster, stronger, healthier.

The big debate is: Is it good or bad ethics? Are we interfering in nature, and on the other hand if we can limit to the cause preventing disabilities and correcting mistakes in the genetic sequence, many individuals will benefit.

The moralistic and the Ethical question is: Are we playing God? I personally would want to see the research mitigating suffering improve health. But going beyond this, would be unethical and immoral.

Did the Wuhan experiment try to create a new Virus that keeps mutating? the Culling of Minks in millions in Denmark, has been out, a scare that the mink fur industry is gone, because of the mass killing of minks. This is a mutated version of the nCOVID19 Pandemic.

While the scientists understand how the SARS CORONO VIRUS – II (nCOVID19) behaves, it being from the same family of Corona viruses like Sars 2000, H1N1 Virus, the Ebola, the Zika. While genetic engineering is very expensive work is happening to prepare affordable Kits with limited capabilities.

With all this behind us, it will make us wonder why are we not able to find a vaccine for nCOVID19, the WUHAN VIRUS. I guess it is more about the nCOVID19 virus having the ability (spikes) on its surface to latch on to a cell, and intruding it. While inside the cell it replicates and spreads to other cells. More immunity means less number of cells will succumb to the infection, thus rendering the person more immune. This is my very basic understanding. I should admit this is a lay man’s view, with limited or no understanding of biological sciences.

I heard a short interview of a young whiz kid, but prodigal. Was talking about “Black holes” and higher order thinking issues. He said:

“Black holes that pull everything into it, including light. Every single molecule gets torn apart due to massive gravity.

A child who is able to explain and understand the concept of Black Hole, was in Autism spectrum and low vision. This was a case for genetic repair/correction. The investment was high in the order of 160000USD, and the Insurance would not pay for it. The Parents were seeing a low-vision expert, but was told he would lose his vision in about 5 years.

It is ironical that the family cannot afford such a treatment com and the family cannot afford, the child is likely to lose its vision, if not treated. Sad and moving.

I wonder at what age in School or Higher Secondary Education should these concepts be introduced? Is it not good to provide enough awareness to such areas, jst enough to get children to become more curious, and may be even to pursue Higher Education and Research interests in Biological Sciences, and the spectrum around it.

It is clear from the Global Pandemic, that Human Suffering has been enormous, Economic Damage has been severe, but the live meat markets in Wuhan and other parts in China are back in business. It has been proved that the Corona Virus has originated in bats, and transmitted to human beings, via bat eating human beings, and further human to human transmission has happened.

While there are many vaccine candidates, and every country is trying hard to shrink the testing life cycles, uncertainty looms large. The efficacy, side-effects – both short term and long term are uncertain.

Typically it takes 10 years from start to finish to develop and prove a vaccine. The world is trying to squeeze these timelines to 2 years. So, this will mean risks.

The logistics of creating the cold chain for supply and delivery of the vaccine to every individual 6.5 billion people approximately is mind-boggling. We need health systems, world-class engineering to work together. I don’t think it existed before. It is time to design, test and make it work. Because the nCOVID19 will not be the last such virus related global pandemic.

The Corona virus is already mutating, posing additional challenges to vaccine development, its efficacy and immune system durability. Ultimately the Herd immunity sets in only when 60% of the world population has been infected & recovered plus vaccinated.

Just now I heard the news about the Moderna Vaccine’s efficacy could be atleast 94%. Let us hope and pray the situation of the global pandemic gets better.

About the author

D Sudhanva is the founder and CEO at Excelsoft Technologies, a globally renowned eLearning Solutions Company. With a focus on transforming education across the world, Sudhanva has steered Excelsoft to be a thought leader in Education Technology with robust products delivering innovative solutions.